CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis) – Introduced
DESCRIPTION: The Cattle Egret stands at about 50 cm (20 in.) tall. It is white with a yellow bill and long, dark grey legs. The sexes are similar.
NAME: The cattle egret is thus named because of its habit of following cattle (see ‘Habitat’). The name ‘Egret’ comes from French ‘Aigrette’, which refers to the feathers of that bird that were used as ornaments.
The Latin genus name ‘Bubulcus’ means ‘concerning cattle’, and the species name ‘Ibis’ comes from ancient Egyptian ‘ibis’. This name was applied to the cattle egret in error by Carl Linnaeus, as the cattle egret is part of the heron family.
HABITAT: ‘Traditionally’, i.e. in natural settings, cattle egrets accompany cattle feeding on insects and other small animals, and will rid cattle of the pests that plague them, such as ticks and flies. For this reason farmers appreciate them. Their adapting to human environments makes their presence now seen in city parks and also around airports.
DIET: This bird figured out that following lawn care and tree pruning care crews, it would find good sources of food. For example whenever the palm trees are pruned in Fort DeRussy Park on Oahu, the cattle egrets follow the crews in search of disturbed insects and other invertebrates. Contrary to most birds in the heron family, cattle egrets seek their food in the fields, not on or in the water.
NESTING: This bird nests in colonies like tall herons, in treetops near marshlands and coastal habitats, sometimes mixing with other species of herons.
DISTRIBUTION: Cattle egrets are native to Africa, Europe, and parts of Asia, but have been introduced in many countries, and they keep expanding their habitats on their own now.
CONSERVATION: The population of the cattle egret is widespread around the globe, and it keeps expanding its range. Its numbers (where statistics are available) have declined in the last few decades, but it is still considered as of ‘least concern’.
OTHER: Following cattle is the reason why the cattle egret was introduced to Hawaii in the 1950s. Since then, these birds have been so successful adapting to their new environment in that state that now they can be seen in city parks and also around airports. They have also learned to follow tree trimming crews and lawn mowers to access their food.
One cattle egret was so tame that it behaved like pigeons and doves around tables looking for food scraps (see photos and videos below). And that cattle egret won’t accept rice, only chicken!
One of the photos below shows an injured egret (left leg). It can also be seen in a video.
This cattle egret below would not accept rice grains or other vegetable as handout, only meat – chicken! This bird is essentially carnivorous.
In this video below, the same cattle egret is seen as panting:
A cattle egret hunting on a lawn walks behind a tree but does not appear on the other side immediately:
Cattle egrets have learned that by following machinery on lawns or in fields, they can catch more prey:
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