The Snowy Egret lives in both fresh and brackish water and even on the beach to catch prey that the sea throws in the sand (SICK, 1997). This heron mainly catches fish, but also insects, larvae, crabs, amphibians and small reptiles. During the hunting the species has the habit of stirring the waters with its yellow feet in order to find small vertebrates.
This species has already been heavily hunted in the past for its breeding plumage.
According to Helmut Sick, the herons were very persecuted by the "garceiros" (heron hunters), particularly in the Amazonian region, to obtain the egrets feathers, plumage characteristic of the reproductive period. Cruelly, adult individuals were slaughtered when they went to the nests to feed their young.
The same author reports that around the year 1914, in the region of the Negro River a merchant employed 80 herders (hunters of herons). In order to obtain a single kilogram of egrets feathers it was necessary 300 Great White Egret (Ardea alba) or 250 Cocoi Heron (Ardea cocoi) or 100 Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) were required.
As reported in Clive Ponting's book "A Green History of the World" in 1869, only Brazil exported 170,000 dead birds for their plumage to be used, and in 1913, London stores offered feathers of 77,000 herons.
Currently this is one of the most common heron species in the continent but in the not so distant past, it has been threatened due to great demand for its feathers for making ladies' hats and clothing around the world.
Just as the Snowy Egret was threatened with extinction, even today many species of Brazilian fauna are threatened by futile and inconsequential habits of consumption.
The great egret is a large heron with all-white plumage. Standing up to 1 m (3.3 ft) tall, this species can measure 80 to 104 cm (31 to 41 in) in length and have a wingspan of 131 to 170 cm (52 to 67 in). Body mass can range from 700 to 1,500 g (1.5 to 3.3 lb), with an average around 1,000 g (2.2 lb). It is thus only slightly smaller than the great blue or grey heron (A. cinerea). Apart from size, the great egret can be distinguished from other white egrets by its yellow bill and black legs and feet, though the bill may become darker and the lower legs lighter in the breeding season. In breeding plumage, delicate ornamental feathers are borne on the back. Males and females are identical in appearance; juveniles look like nonbreeding adults. Differentiated from the intermediate egret (Mesophoyx intermedius) by the gape, which extends well beyond the back of the eye in case of the great egret, but ends just behind the eye in case of the intermediate egret.