The little egret (Egretta garzetta) is a species of small heron in the family Ardeidae. It is a white bird with a slender black beak, long black legs and, in the western race, yellow feet. As an aquatic bird, it feeds in shallow water and on land, consuming a variety of small creatures. It breeds colonially, often with other species of water birds, making a platform nest of sticks in a tree, bush or reed bed. A clutch of three to five bluish-green eggs is laid and incubated by both parents for about three weeks. The young fledge at about six weeks of age.
In the breeding season, the adult has two long plumes on the nape that form a crest. These plumes are about 150 mm (6 in) and are pointed and very narrow. There are similar feathers on the breast, but the barbs are more widely spread. There are also several elongated scapular feathers that have long loose barbs and may be 200 mm (8 in) long. During the winter the plumage is similar but the scapulars are shorter and more normal in appearance. The bill is long and slender and it and the lores are black. There is an area of greenish-grey bare skin at the base of the lower mandible and around the eye which has a yellow iris. The legs are black and the feet yellow. Juveniles are similar to non-breeding adults but have greenish-black legs and duller yellow feet, and may have a certain proportion of greyish or brownish feathers. The subspecies nigripes differs in having yellow skin between the bill and eye, and blackish feet. During the height of courtship, the lores turn red and the feet of the yellow-footed races turn red.
Little egrets are mostly silent but make various croaking and bubbling calls at their breeding colonies and produce a harsh alarm call when disturbed. To the human ear, the sounds are indistinguishable from the black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) and the cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) with which it sometimes associates.
Its breeding distribution is in wetlands in warm temperate to tropical parts of Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. A successful colonist, its range has gradually expanded north, with stable and self-sustaining populations now present in the United Kingdom.