Great Egret — Launching and Flight

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A few days ago I posted a series of images of a Great Egret as it preened and relaxed. I mentioned then that I caught a flight sequence of that same bird. Today, I’m posting those images.

Great Egrets are large birds, with wingspans exceeding four feet (more than 1.2 meters), but they are surprisingly delicate. An adult Great Egret weighs just about two pounds (about a kilogram). Some of that delicacy is apparent when an egret takes flight.

As it lifts off it appears to almost float into the air, like some gigantic butterfly. Its body, head and neck are dwarfed by its huge wings.

In this second image you’ll notice some white, lacy feathers above the egret’s short tail. These are the egret’s seasonal breeding plumes, feathers that it only displays during courtship season and for a month or two thereafter.

As the egret transitions from launch to flight it assumes a more streamlined shape. In this image it has pulled its long, spindly legs together and is beginning to elevate them so as to reduce drag.

Now in full flight, the egret has brought its legs up underneath its tail. It has coiled its neck into an “S” shape and pulled it against its body, further reducing air resistance.

Great Egrets are very capable fliers. Their large wingspread to body ratio enables them to take advantage of rising air currents, making long distance flight relatively effortless for them.

Some of you may wonder how I managed to capture these images. Sometimes getting a bird in flight is a matter of luck — that is certainly the case with the Burrowing Owl whose image I featured yesterday. At other times capturing the image involves planning. I knew that if I waited long enough I was likely to see the egret eventually take to the air. I observed the direction in which the bird was facing as it perched and from that, made an educated guess as to which direction it would take off when it eventually flew. Then, I waited. It took nearly an hour but eventually, I was rewarded.

Images made with a Canon R5, Canon RF 100-500mm f4.5-7.1 IS L zoom lens, M setting (auto ISO), ISO 400 (first image), ISO 500 (remaining images), f9 @ 1/4000, -1 1/3 stops exposure compensation.

One Reply to “Great Egret — Launching and Flight”

  1. cintwigg says:

    This is a beautiful sequence of flight images, and the post gives me an appreciation for the planning and time it can take to capture a series of images like this.

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