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Egretta intermedia (Yellow-billed egret, Intermediate egret) 

Geelbekwitreier [Afrikaans]; iNgekle (also applied to Little egret) [Zulu]; Esingangombe (also applied to Yellow-billed egret) [Kwangali]; Leholosiane (generic term for egret) [South Sotho]; Middelste zilverreiger [Dutch]; Héron à bec jaune [French]; Edelreiher, Mittelreiher [German]; Garça-branca-intermédia [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Ciconiiformes > Family: Ardeidae

Egretta intermedia (Yellowbilled egret)  Egretta intermedia (Yellowbilled egret) 
Yellow-billed egret, Milnerton Sewage Works, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©] Yellow-billed egret. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs from India, Australia, Japan and South-East Asia to sub-Saharan Africa, where it is uncommon to locally common in central and southern Mozambique, Zimbabwe, northern and eastern Botswana, the Caprivi Strip and other patches of Namiba and South Africa, largely excluding the Northern and Eastern Cape. It generally favours seasonally flooded marshes and grassland; the shallow margins of lakes; saltpans; estuaries and rivers.

Distribution of Yellow-billed egret in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

Movements and migrations

Generally resident, although it may make local movements in response to changing water levels.


It eats mainly small fish, frogs and aquatic insects, doing most of its foraging in shallow water or grass, slowly walking around and stabbing at prey. It may also hover over the water before diving headfirst, sometimes following Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) and catching prey in its wake. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Vertebrates
    • fish
    • frogs
      • Cacosternum boettgeri (Common caco)
      • Xenopus laevis (Common platanna)
      • Pyxicephalus adspersus (Giant bullfrog)
      • Kassina maculata (Red-legged kassina)
      • Hyperolius pusillus (Waterlily reed frog)
    • chicks of Euplectes afer (Yellow-crowned bishop)
  • Invertebrates
    • insects
      • aquatic insects and their larvae
      • grasshoppers (Orthoptera)
    • Talorchestia capensis (Beach hoppers)


  • Monogamous, usually nesting in mixed-species colonies of water birds, with roughly 2-70 breeding pairs of Yellow-billed egrets scattered across the colony.
  • The nest is built by the female with material delivered by the male, consisting of a platform of reeds and sticks, lined with grass and typically placed in a tree or reedbed.
  • Egg-laying season is from July-March, peaking from September-February.
  • It lays 2-3 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 24-27 days.
  • The chicks are brooded and fed by both parents, leaving the nest at about 21 days old and fledging roughly 35 days later.


Not threatened, although sensitive to disturbance while breeding.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.