CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Cattle Egret is white with a yellow bill and dark grey legs. Eyes are yellow. In breeding plumage there is a reddish tinge on the breast plumes. Sexes are similar. Bird length is about 50 cm (20 inches).
NAME: ‘Cattle’ in the name relates to the bird’s habits. ‘Egret’ comes from French ‘aigrette’, which refers to the bird’s feathers used as ornaments in the past. Latin genus name ‘Bubulcus’ means ‘concerning cattle’. Latin species name ‘Ibis’ comes from ancient Egyptian ‘ibis’. Applied in error by Carl Linnaeus, as this bird is part of the Heron family, not the Ibis.
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. Their adapting to human environments makes their presence now seen in city parks and also around airports.
DIET: Insects, arthropods, small reptiles, bird eggs/nestlings, some fish, also garbage.
NESTING: Nest in colonies in treetops near marshlands and coastal habitats, sometimes mixing with other species of herons. Three to seven light blue eggs are laid, incubated by both parents. Chicks fed by both parents.
DISTRIBUTION: Native to Africa, Europe, and parts of Asia, introduced in many countries including Hawaii (from Florida in the 1950s) in the USA. Also expanding range on its own.
Disbribution map: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cattle_egret#/media/File:Bubulcus_map.svg
CONSERVATION: Population widespread around the globe and increasing, not at risk.
NOTES: Cattle egrets have figured out that following park maintenance crews in Hawaii, they would find good sources of food (photos and videos below). One cattle egret was so tame that it came around tables looking for food scraps (see photos and videos below).
SIMILAR SPECIES: Little Blue Heron (juvenile), Snowy Egret
REFERENCES: https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/cattle-egret (Missouri Department of Conservation)
https://guides.nynhp.org/cattle-egret/ (New York Natural Heritage Program)
http://www.nhptv.org/natureworks/cattleegret.htm (New Hampshire PBS)
https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Bubulcus_ibis/ (University of Michigan)
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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