Little Egret colony, Porth Penrhyn, Bangor

Little Egret colony, Porth Penrhyn, Llandygai, Bangor

Little Egrets nest in large numbers beside the river Cegin here, on the opposite bank from the Lôn Las Ogwen active travel route. In summer you can see adult egrets and some of the darker fledglings in the trees (see video below). Please enjoy the view from the path and don’t disturb the birds.

The colony was established in 2006. By 2010 it was the largest Little Egret colony in Wales, with an estimated 50 to 60 nests.

Little Egrets didn’t breed in Britain until 1996, when a pair raised chicks in Dorset. Before then they were rare visitors to Britain from breeding grounds in southern Europe. They began to breed in northern France in the 1980s, possibly in response to their traditional areas becoming over-populated.

Little Egrets raised young in Wales for the first time in 2001, at a nest in Gwent. The following year, two pairs fledged a total of five young on the Anglesey side of the Menai Strait. That was the first successful breeding in North Wales, although it had probably been attempted from 2000. The colony on Anglesey transferred to Porth Penrhyn in 2006.

The egrets go elsewhere for the winter. One ringed Porth Penrhyn bird was seen wintering in the Canary Islands!

Could Little Egrets have bred in Wales in ancient times? The naturalist and travel writer Thomas Pennant speculated that the species might have been common in Britain, before being exterminated by humans. He had been sent the feathers of a bird shot on Anglesey before 1768 which he suspected to be from a Little Egret. He knew of no other record in Britain but included the species in his book British Zoology, published in 1812.

With thanks to Julian Hughes, of the RSPB, and to Gwion Clark for the video footage. Sources include ‘The Birds of Wales’, Liverpool University Press, 2021

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