The Cattle Egret is a gregarious, white bird, easily recognized by its feeding habits alongside grazing animals and agricultural machinery, and its exaggerated, head-pumping strut.
Its preference for lawns, fields, pastures and grazing animals is quite unlike other native North American herons and egrets which generally feed in or along water and not in close association with livestock.
In Britain and Europe, the Cattle Egret is also known as the Buff-backed Heron in reference to the color of its breeding plumes, but in many languages it is simply called Cow Crane, Cow Heron or Cow Bird, or is named for the wild grazing animal with which it usually associates — e.g., Elephant Bird, Rhinoceros Egret, or Hippopotamus Egret.
The Cattle Egret’s Arabic name, Abu Qerdan, means “father of ticks” and refers to the abundance of ticks in Egyptian heronries.
This species began its remarkable worldwide range expansion in the late 1800s. It became common in many regions and is still colonizing new areas.
Its rapid, almost worldwide range expansion is well documented and studied. It spends most of its time in fields rather than streams and feeds at the feet of grazing cattle or rides on their backs to pick at ticks. This stocky white heron has yellow feathers on its head and neck during the breeding season.
Although unknown in the Americas before the 1870s, and not recorded in the Caribbean until the late 1940s, the cattle egret is one of the more conspicuous birds seen in the Caribbean. L
Source: Caribbean Companion The A to Z Reference by Brian Dyde – 1992
Photo credit: A. Aimable
This feature runs every Tuesday and Thursday. It is compiled by daughter of the soil Anselma Aimable, a former agricultural officer and former correspondent for Caribbean Net News, who has a deep interest in local culture and history. Send ideas and tips to [email protected]