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Cattle Egret

Bubulcus ibis

Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis, photo © by Michael Plagens

Alfalfa fields that are being flood irrigated attract many water bird species including this Cattle Egret. Insects, other invertibrates and even small mammals are driven up out of the soil by the rising waters and become easy prey for birds. Southwest Phoenix, Maricopa Co., Arizona, October 2009.

In the Sonoran Desert, Cattle Egrets are uncommon, but may appear at almost any time of year. The most likely place to see them is in an agricultural field during irrigation. There they predate especially grasshoppers and crickets that are escaping the rising water. In other cases they may follow cattle or sheep, as they do around the World, catching the insects flushed by the animals' foraging activities. A slowly moving tractor will also do! Occasionally they will also be found in marshy habitat where they catch fish, amphibians and aquatic invertibrates. These are adaptible birds that have become distributed in the tropics and subtropics arounnd the World.

Plumage is all white except during breeding when rusty feathers appear on crown, chest and wings. The beak is sturdy orange-red. Legs are dark gray. The bird, overall, is stockier, with shorted neck than mostly white and similar looking Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets.

Uncommon - Summer & Autumn also Winter & Spring

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2009