The egrets are once again a common sight in the wetlands and swamps of the United States, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean islands. This was not always the case, because of the beautiful feathers the egrets displayed in their breeding plumage, they were hunted almost to extinction in the 19th and 20th centuries. The plumage was collected and used in ladies fashionwear. To stop this practice, the hunting of egrets was made illegal by protecting these birds under federal laws.
Today, the egrets are once again being threatened for another reason. The loss of their habitat through the draining of wetlands, for agriculture purposes and housing expansions. Local and federal governments, as well as individual organizations are purchasing tracts of land, creating parks and reserves and providing areas for these birds and others to exist.
There are four species of egrets in North America other than the vagrant egret species blown in from another country or an escaped exotic bird from its compound. The Great Egret is the most common and is seen from Florida all the way into southern Canada during the warmer months. The Cattle Egret is seen over the same range but not as commonly as the Great Egret. The Snowy Egret and Reddish Egret are more apt to be seen in the United States, mostly in the southeastern areas and into the Caribbean islands.