The Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) is a small, white heron that is found throughout most of the world. They typically measure around 20 inches in length, have a wingspan of about 35 inches, and weigh between 12 and 19 ounces. Cattle Egrets have a distinctive appearance, with a white plumage, a yellow-orange bill, and yellow legs. During breeding season, their head and neck turn a pale, rusty-brown color.
Cattle Egrets are commonly found in fields, pastures, and wetlands, where they feed on insects, frogs, and small rodents. They have a unique behavior of following large animals, such as cattle and horses, to feed on the insects disturbed by their movement. This behavior has earned them the nickname “cowbird.” They also feed on insects that are attracted to the mowed grass, and will sometimes even perch on the backs of grazing animals to pick off insects.
In North America, Cattle Egrets are found throughout the southern half of the United States, as well as in Mexico, Central America, and parts of South America. They are year-round residents in parts of their range, but are also migratory, with some populations traveling long distances. In the United States, they typically migrate to South America during the winter months, but some individuals may stay in the southernmost parts of the country.
During breeding season, Cattle Egrets form large colonies in trees, with up to several hundred birds nesting in a single tree. They construct their nests out of twigs and sticks, and both parents take turns incubating the eggs and caring for the young. After the breeding season, the colonies disperse, and the birds return to their feeding grounds.
In addition to their unique behavior of following large animals, Cattle Egrets are also known for their adaptability. They have successfully colonized new areas around the world, including Africa, Asia, and Australia, and have even expanded their range into urban areas. Their ability to thrive in a variety of environments has made them a fascinating and important species to study.