Once again south suburban Chicago lakes, ponds and sloughs are the home to migrating Great Egrets. In the springtime they pass through the area and some even stay all summer long to nest and raise young ones. During springtime, their breeding season, the great egret changes into its gorgeous nuptial plumage. A patch of skin around its eye turns neon green and long flowing plumes grow from its back. The egret fans its plumes during a courtship dance in hopes to attract a partner.
These beautiful plumes, called aigrettes, nearly brought the egret to its extinction in the late 19th century. During this era, it was fashionable to use the egret’s long plume as an ornamental headdress. The plume hunting nearly wiped out the species before preservationists demanded regulations to protect the great egret’s colonies. Since then, the great egret has successfully rebounded. As a result of the success of these early conservationists, the bird became the symbol of the National Audubon Society.