The Cattle Egret’s range expansion is extraordinary. A bird of the African Savannah, it migrated to South America in at the boundary of Guiana and Suriname in 1877, having apparently flown across the Atlantic Ocean. The species became established there in the 1930s. By 1941, it was seen in Florida and by 1953 it was breeding there.
By the 1970s, it was breeding in Canada and northern California. It’s success is believed to be a result of both man’s alteration of native habitats for grazing stock and the species’ own odd dispersal patterns.
Cattle Egrets are at the same time beneficial and a nuisance. Beneficial, because they eat insects, reducing crop damage and pests on grazing stock. A nuisance, because this is a highly gregarious species, roosting and breeding in large colonies, sometimes with a thousand or more birds. It’s not much fun to have hundreds of large birds roosting in trees in your backyard.
North American populations are reasonably stable. Range expansion is likely completed here.
For more bird photographs, please visit Frozen Feather Images.