CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)
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. For this reason farmers appreciate them. 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.
ON PEI: Does not breed on Prince Edward Island, sightings rare (see photo below).
DISTRIBUTION: Native to Africa, Europe, and parts of Asia, introduced in many countries including Hawaii 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.
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)
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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