Egret, name of a group of small herons (family Ardeidae), wading birds with long necks, long legs, and pointed bills, with lacy, usually white, plumage, found around the world. The great, or common, egret (Casmerodius albus) ranges from Europe to New Zealand and throughout the Americas. Other American species include the snowy egret (Egretta thula) and reddish egret (E. rufescens). The cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) feeds on insects, often following cattle to catch insects which they flush from the grass. At one time the plumes of the egret were highly valued as items of ceremonial or fashionable dress, and the birds were nearly hunted to extinction. They are now protected by law and numbers are increasing once again.