Little Egrets have a wide distribution, breeding from western and southern Eurasia south to Africa and Australia. Long confined only to the extreme south in Europe, it was only from the 1930s onwards that they began to spread north through France and into northwest Europe.
In Great Britain they occurred only as occasional spring vagrants until the late 1950s, when they began to occur more regularly, averaging about 15 a year by 1988. In 1989 over 120 were recorded, largely as a result of an unprecedented autumn influx, which then became a regular and increasing annual event, with many overwintering. Breeding was first recorded in Britain in 1996; by 1999 at least 30 pairs nested, usually within existing Grey Heron colonies, and as many as 1650 were estimated to be present.
    The first ever record of a Little Egret in Wiltshire was at Britford in January 1992. They have occurred in every year since then and although numbers have fluctuated the general trend has been upwards. Birds of Wiltshire recorded their presence at 24 sites in winter and noted the first breeding record for the county in 2003. WTA2 records them in 183 tetrads in winter and 108 in summer, with confirmed breeding in three of them and probable breeding in a fourth.


The following references are used throughout these species accounts, in the abbreviated form given in quotation marks:
1968-72 Breeding Atlas” – Sharrack, J.T.R. 1976:  The Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1981-84 Winter Atlas” – Lack, P.C. 1986:  The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1988-91 Breeding Atlas” – Gibbons, D.W., Reid, J.B. & Chapman, R.A. 1993: The New Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland 1988-91. T. & A. Poyser
Birds of Wiltshire” – Ferguson-Lees, I.J. et al. 2007 : Birds of Wiltshire, published by the tetrad atlas group of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society after mapping fieldwork 1995-2000. Wiltshire Ornithological Society.
Bird Atlas 2007-2011” – Balmer, D.E., Gillings, S., Caffrey, B.J., Swann, R.L., Downie, I.S. and Fuller, R.J. 2013: Bird Atlas 2007-2011: the Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland
WTA2” – ("Wiltshire Tetrad Atlas 2 ") the present electronic publication, bringing together the Wiltshire data from “Birds of Wiltshire” and “Bird Atlas 2007-11”, together with data from further fieldwork carried out in 2011 and 2012.
"Hobby" - the annual bird report of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society.