CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)
DESCRIPTION: The Cattle Egret stands at about 50 cm (20 in.) tall. It is white with a yellow bill and dark grey legs. The sexes are similar.
NAME: The cattle egret is thus name 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 found out that following lawn care and tree pruning care crews in Hawaii, it would find good sources of food. For example whenever the palm trees are pruned in Fort de Russy Park, the cattle egrets arrive on the grounds around 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.
NESTING: This bird nests in colonies like tall herons, in treetops near marshlands and coastal habitats, sometimes mixing with other species of herons.
ON PEI: The cattle egret does not breed on PEI and its status on the island is listed as rare, occasional or accidental depending on the seasons. One sighting in a cattle pasture in Grand Tracadie has been reported on November 30 and December 1st, 2005, then several years later, and most recently on November 9, 2018 (see photo below).
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.
One of the photos below (3rd of 1st row) shows an injured egret (left leg). It can also be seen in the video.