The Snowy Egret, or what we call the Little Egret, is a familiar sight here in the Ria Formosa. Generally a solitary bird although occasionally, as you can see below, we have seen a congregation of them accompanied by Spoonbills and Cormorants when there is a shoal of fish.
Their lovely white plumage was once found on numerous headdresses and hats , but thank goodness the passion for plumage from wild birds on hats – male (military) and female – has gone out of fashion and become illegal. It required the feathers from 28 egrets to create a plume of just 1oz, so not surprisingly they were almost hunted to extinction in the 19th century.
Fortunately by the late 19th century groups (of mostly women) were campaigning to stop the practice. These groups were the early foundation of societies such as the RSPB and their campaigns began to have a much needed impact on millinery fashions. One of the earliest rules of the RSPB was ‘That Lady-Members shall refrain from wearing the feathers of any bird not killed for purposes of food, the ostrich only excepted’, and within a few years of the RSPB being formed laws were enacted which did more than refraining the practice. It became illegal.