Cattle egret - Wikipedia
burchelli, impala Aepyceros melampus, Cape buffalo Syncerus caffer, and evaluate the extent of association between Cattle Egrets and large mammal. Cape buffalo and cattle egret by Regina Hart, Flickr debate as to what type of symbiotic relationship exists between cattle and cattle egrets. Egrets remove parasitic ticks from the cows and those ticks feed on cows blood What is the difference between a cow, a buffalo and a cattle?.
Flocking Together – Nature Stories
The nonbreeding adult has mainly white plumage, a yellow bill, and greyish-yellow legs. During the breeding season, adults of the nominate western subspecies develop orange-buff plumes on the back, breast, and crownand the bill, legs, and irises become bright red for a brief period prior to pairing. This subspecies' bill and tarsus are longer on average than in B.
It has white cheeks and throat, like B. At the end of the 19th century, it began expanding its range into southern Africa, first breeding in the Cape Province in It was first recorded breeding in Cuba inin Costa Rica inand in Mexico inalthough it was probably established before then.
They bred in Britain again infollowing an influx in the previous winter, and may become established there.
Sincethe cattle egret has been permanently resident in Israel. Prior toit was only a winter visitor. Originally adapted to a commensal relationship with large grazing and browsing animals, it was easily able to switch to domesticated cattle and horses.
You can also see the orange-pink breeding plumage in the above picture, which is white in snowy egrets. It can be easy to confuse these two, but only the above bird has made a specific symbiotic relationship a large part of its existence.
This is a cattle egret, Bubulcus ibis, and despite its name and similar appearance, it is actually more closely related to herons in the genus Ardea this includes one of my favorite birds, the great blue heron, Ardea herodias than to egrets such as the snowy.
It is also a relatively recent arrival in North America. I have previously written about non-native species, especially those in Florida. However, the cattle egret is not a typical example, as its migration and expansion has been entirely natural and not aided by people either intentionally or otherwise though human activity may have increased the overall niche space available to them.
Cattle egrets established themselves permanently in the Americas in the s, eventually expanding northward and establishing breeding populations in Florida in the s. Previously, these birds were native to Spain, Portugal, and subtropical Africa and Asia. However, they were able to cross the Atlantic Ocean via flight and establish themselves in the Americas.
As you might guess from their name, cattle egrets tend to associate with livestock. However, this behavior is not specialized and can be seen with many species of grazing mammals, both wild and domestic.
As more areas of the world were farmed or cleared for livestock, cattle egrets found more places in which they could thrive. The nature of their relationship with grazing animals is reflected in the cattle egret diet. The majority of its heron and egret relatives rely on aquatic food sources usually small freshwater fish, but occasionally also in tidal areas like the snowy egret in my first story linked above.