Native to Africa, Cattle Egrets arrived in the United States in 1941. They have since become one of the most abundant of North American herons. Cattle egrets are small and compact compared to other herons. They have short legs, a short but thick neck and a straight dagger-like bill. During non-breeding season, adults are all white with a yellow bill and legs. When breeding, they develop golden plumes on their head, chest and back. Juveniles have dark legs and a dark bill.
Cattle egrets spend much of their time in fields, stalking insects and other small animals. They're commonly seen at the feet of grazing cattle where they can easily snatch disturbed insects. Crickets and grasshoppers are typical items on their menu. They also consume horse flies, cicadas, wolf spiders, ticks, earthworms, crawfish, millipedes, centipedes, fish, frogs, mice, songbirds, eggs and nestlings. These egrets will ride on the backs of cattle and horses while picking at ticks.
Most Cattle egrets breeding in North America migrate to Mexico, Central America, and the Greater Antilles. Several populations stay in the southern United States, mainly in coastal areas where the temperature rarely falls below 40° Fahrenheit. Although their migration pattern is usually predictable, they may sometimes wander erratically and appear well north of their normal range.
Cattle egrets form dense breeding colonies and non-breeding roosts. They leave their roost or nesting colony just after sunrise, feed in the morning and afternoon with a rest at midday, and make their return flight an hour before sunset. They are usually monogamous within each breeding season, with occasional trios of two females and one male. Cattle egrets are sometimes seen as a nuisance because their colonies can be large, noisy, smelly, and close to populated areas.
These photos were captured at the St. Catherine Creek NWR in Tupelo, Mississippi. I was surprised and grateful when they allowed me to move in close enough to get some good images.
Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you enjoyed the photos and information on one of our most common birds. Have a great Wednesday!
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