A wild great white egret was spotted on the Paignton Zoo site recently – a first for the zoo and a rarity in the local area. The egret, which was seen on the main lake at Paignton Zoo, was hatched and ringed in Somerset at RSPB Ham Wall this year and was first spotted in Brixham before making its way to the zoo.
Bird ringing is a way to track movements of individuals and keep a record of population changes. The ring will help to keep track of the bird’s age, its condition and where it was ringed, and those who subsequently see it can use the unique tracking number to report information back to the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).
Great white egrets were once a rare sight in the UK and Europe – in 1970, only 150 individuals were recorded across the continent. The great white egret is now protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, with numbers having plummeted after the species was hunted for their beautiful white feathers.
This species of heron is commonly found across areas of Asia, Africa and the Americas, and the recent increase across Europe is thought to be associated with rising global temperatures. The UK’s first breeding pair was recorded in the Somerset Levels in 2012. Seeing birds fledge further afield is a great sign for their increasing numbers.