The cattle egret
The cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) is the newest arrival to Bird City and North America. Originally confined to Europe, Asia, and Africa, on its own it traversed the Atlantic Ocean to arrive in the New World. The first in the US was a small flock observed in Florida 1942, and within 15 years it was seen in Louisiana and has continued to expand its range across the US.
Cattle egrets are the smallest white herons in our area. They have yellow beaks and yellow legs and feet. During the spring breeding season, the adults acquire rich buff-colored plumage to the head, neck, and back. They nest right alongside all other egrets in Bird City each year.
This species is particularly terrestrial compared to other herons. It is fond of fields and grasslands, often following tractors or other grass mowers taking advantage of insect activity. Their name aptly refers to their cohabitation with cattle and other farm animals as they follow along catching insects disturbed by these animals. Many ornithologists believe that their association with agriculture has brought about their widespread range expansion.
The cattle egret may be more inclined to migrate out of our area compared to other herons, as fewer of them are seen by birders in winter months.
Photos by Pam McIlhenny.