Thursday, November 24, 2016

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret Visits Fredericton Area

Cattle Egret

For the past week the Fredericton area has had another rare visitor, a Cattle Egret.  In the photo above it is perched on a fence with one leg and foot pulled up while preening itself.  The bird is an adult in non-breeding (basic) plumage.  In breeding plumage it would have orange plumes on its crown, neck, and lower back; a bicolored bill with red at the base and orange at the tip, and dark red legs.  Some of the photos of this bird show some orange on the head and on the tail.  

Cattle Egret
Cattle Egrets are the smallest of the heron family and are more terrestrial than the others (they prefer to feed on land).  They are named for their habit of following livestock in the fields, feeding on the insects and invertebrates the animals kick up with their feet.  They have adapted to modern times and can be seen following tractors as they work the fields.  

Cattle Egret
Cattle Egrets are normal to most of the United States, Mexico, Central America and the West Indies.  They are only partially migratory, retreating from the northerly parts of their range in winter.  They are also endemic to Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia.  

The Cattle Egret is well known for its amazing ability to expand its range.  It did not always live in North America.  It is thought the species originated in central Africa.  From there it expanded its range around the world.  It was not seen in North America until the 1930s (West Indies) and first in Florida in 1941.  From there it has expanded its range widely in the New World.  

Cattle Egrets are colonial nesters in trees with other herons and egrets.  They breed from the southern US and Gulf Coast southward.  Visits to our area are rare but almost always in the fall.  They will usually then hang around a farm or other large animal facility until cold temperatures drive them southward again.  

Let's celebrate this tough, adaptable species.  Watch for them around livestock in your area.

No comments:

Post a Comment