Thank you Laura Macky, for reminding me of a post I have intended to write for a while.
Some years ago, in the age of film (before digital), I took a number of cattle egret photos in Florida. I actually saw several playing in the surf at the beach. I sent photos and a story to the local Audubon Society and they printed the story in their chapter magazine.
Looking at the photo, I was convinced that I should concentrate on writing, and try to let photography support my articles. None of my photos here are as striking as Laura’s, but I hope they tell a short story.
The cattle egret was originally an African and Asian bird. On a trip to Africa in 1977, I recall seeing one prancing wildly around a rhinoceros.
Okay, I have to explain:
This is a really poor quality photo. Here is my excuse. My mother, at the time in the Peace Corps, and I were driving through the Willem Pretorius Nature Preserve in South Africa — in her bright yellow Volkswagen “Beatle” – when we encountered this rhino. She was concerned that although notoriously poor of eyesight, the rhino might easily see and be attracted to, perhaps alarmed, by the bright yellow car, and she was not going to get close and barely slowed down enough for me to get this shot. The photo was taken on Ektachrome transparency film and scanned to make the print. Though not sharp, it brings back some fond memories.
Cattle Egrets arrived in South America about 1877 and gradually moved north. It was unknown in North America until after 1952, but has since spread rapidly.
In Tennessee, Cattle Egrets are migrants, arriving in mid spring and leaving in the fall for feeding and breeding grounds in coastal wetlands.
“Cattle Egret” is an appropriate name. They hang around cattle and other grazing animals, looking for insects, such as grasshoppers, that are stirred by the grazers. When they need to rest, they will fly up on the backs grazing animals for a free ride.
I watched a flock of several egrets accompanying a small herd of wild horses on Assateague Island off the coast of Maryland. The tall grass made it difficult for the bird to hunt, so it hopped on the horse for a better view. They have also been seen following a working tractor mowing a field.
Here in Tennessee, there was, until last year, a tree standing in the middle of a local pasture by a shallow pond. The Cattle Egrets used this tree as a roost.
With the tree gone, they now flock to other trees, and in the evenings we see flocks of them flying off to some preferred roost.
These egrets stand about 14 inches high, and may have a buff or golden colored patch on the tops of their heads and or on their chests. This is breeding plumage.
For those that need to know, the scientific name is: Bubulcus ibis. Bubulcus is Latin for “herdsman” because of its association with cattle. “Ibis” stems from Latin and Greek words for what was originally the white sacred ibis of Egypt (to which it is NOT related).
Laura Macky’s photo reminded me of a post about Cattle Egrets I had been planning.