Return of Bird of the Week: Cattle Egret


Cattle Egret, San Antonio, Texas

Cattle Egret, San Antonio, Texas

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.

Cattle Egret Range Expansion

Cattle Egret Range Expansion

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 Egret in its preferred habitat, Pantanal, Brazil

Cattle Egret in its preferred habitat, Pantanal, Brazil

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.

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2 thoughts on “Return of Bird of the Week: Cattle Egret

  1. I’m no expert, but the top picture looks like a snowy egret. Though the only egrets I’ve ever been familiar with are snowy and great egrets, as those are the only two pictures I’ve ever seen posted on the helpful “identify the wildlife” type signs in the parks around here (So. California).

    • Yep, I’m going to go out on a limb, and along with the supporting information at https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Cattle_Egret/id say that the top picture is a Snowy Egret. (Black bill, orange streak on face, black legs, snowy plume on back of head, orange feet <- okay, I can't see that part 🙂 I am also finding out that the plume was once prized by the fashion industry and that this egret was a early benefactor of conservation efforts (Migratory bird treaty act 1918) and no longer endangered.

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