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Cattle Egret

Bubulcus ibis ORDER: PELECANIFORMES FAMILY: ARDEIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The short, thick-necked Cattle Egret spends most of its time in fields rather than streams. It forages at the feet of grazing cattle, head bobbing with each step, or rides on their backs to pick at ticks. This stocky white heron has yellow plumes on its head and neck during breeding season. Originally from Africa, it found its way to North America in 1953 and quickly spread across the continent. Elsewhere in the world, it forages alongside camels, ostriches, rhinos, and tortoises—as well as farmers’ tractors.

Calls

Cattle Egrets give raspy, repeated “rick-rack” calls throughout the year at the nest and the roost. Their repertoire also includes harsh “raa” calls to defend the nest and chatter calls to greet their mates. They are usually quiet while foraging and flying.

Other Sounds

Adults make loud thuds with their wings during breeding displays, and mated pairs clap bills with each other. Cattle Egrets can also communicate by making clicking sounds with their bills.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Find This Bird

To find Cattle Egrets, head to agricultural areas near wetlands. These are tropical herons, so your best chances will be in warm parts of the southern U.S. Seeing Cattle Egrets is not difficult once you find the right habitat—they usually walk around in the open, on dry land, as they hunt grasshoppers and other small animals. True to their name, Cattle Egrets often associate with cows and other large farm animals, waiting to strike until the cow disturbs an insect or frog. Sometimes, Cattle Egrets even stand atop cows and horses, making them both easy to spot and easy to identify.

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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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