The reddish egret comes in two colors: white or grayish blue. The white morph (or variation) is white with a bicolored bill that is pink, tipped with black. It is much scarcer than the dark morph, which is grayish blue with reddish feathers on its head and neck; it also has a bicolored bill. Compared to other herons, the reddish egret is plumper for its size.
While they are mostly silent, their most common vocalization sounds like awwh-uhhh awwh-UNH awwwh-UNH-UNH!
The reddish egret is almost exclusively an inhabitant of coastal lagoons of the Gulf Coast states and is perhaps North America’s least known heron. The Florida Keys is a very constant residence of the reddish egret. If any bird can be said to lack a sense of propriety, then it is the reddish egret—the clown that does the tangled-footed two-step in the shallows. Other herons and egrets have a certain dignity, but the “big red” lets it all hang out. It makes long-legged dashes through the shallows, its body listing first to port and then to starboard.
It rarely feeds from the edges of the water but instead resorts to the extensive mud or sand flats or lagoons that are so numerous in the Keys. It raises its wings like a sail to cast shade on its intended prey, leaps into the air like a ballet dancer, and finally lunges at the would-be meal with quick stabbing motions. It is hit or miss, but—either way—it is only minutes before the show begins again. It is the most varied and active of any North American heron in foraging techniques. They primarily eat small fish and the occasional frog or tadpole.
Reddish egrets usually nest in mixed-species heron colonies and their nest locations can be on the ground, in vegetation, or in trees up to 10 meters above ground. Nests are well made from dry sticks and lined with forbs and grasses. On average, they have three to four eggs per clutch and incubate them for about a month. Young leave the nest in four to five weeks but remain close to the nest.