by Marilyn and Keith Davis

"Opportunistic Feeders"

Cattle Egrets

cattle egret         Back in the dark ages, before TV, when Honey and I lived in different parts of the state, Travelog Movies were ‘in’ and Africa was a reason for attracting people to the movie theaters. Movie producers, trying to get spectacular shots of large and dangerous animals, would always throw in shots showing beautiful white Cattle Egrets walking peacefully at the feet of exotic animals like the African Elephant, Cape Buffalo and Rhinoceros. Little did we know that the Egrets were opportunistic feeders following the large animals to catch insects they stirred up, to give them a free lunch.

        The Cattle Egret, a native to Africa and Asia, came to the Americas by way of South America in 1877. By 1941 they had reached The United States and were nesting (a sign they were planning to stay awhile) by 1953. Today this small, stocky, twenty inch bird is one of the most abundant Herons in North America. Cattle Egrets are still found among large grazing animals who frighten little edible creatures from the ground right into the waiting Egret’s bill for lunch. The grazing animals in America are cattle, horses, sheep, etc. Cattle Egrets eat all kinds of small creatures that live in grasslands and marshes. Of interest: In Winter, a Cattle Egret’s feathers are white. In Summer, breeding plumage is white with yellow on head, belly and wings.

        While driving through the Washington fields, Honey and I were lucky enough to spot a Cattle Egret in a drainage ditch. This beautiful white bird with yellow feathers starting to show, stood out in a background of cattail and flowing water. The speed limit on the road was 40 mph which is okay if you are on your way to the grocery store, but if you can safely travel at 20 mph, the same road offers a scenic array of Cattle Egrets, Red-winged Blackbirds, Mallard Ducks, Song Sparrows, Bewick’s Wren, American Pipit and lots more. Take advantage of our wonderful spring days and see what’s out there.

        The Artist is Marilyn Davis. If you have questions about birds or any upcoming Red Cliffs Audubon monthly meetings or field trips, call 435 673-0996.

        If you wish to read more Artists & Birds articles, they are listed in the table below.

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