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Bubulcus ibis

Cattle Egret

  • Order: Pelecaniformes
  • Family: Ardeidae


A native of the Old World, the Cattle Egret reached the Neotropics (Suriname) during the 1870s, first spreading aggressively through northern South America, then Central America, the Caribbean, and North America. Upon arriving in the New World, this small (53 cm length) insect specialist found plenty of cattle that kicked up grasshoppers and other insect prey. These cattle filled the ecological niche of the savanna and marsh ungulates the Cattle Egret fed beside in the Old World. Aiding their success, the transplanted Cattle Egrets didn’t have to compete with the insect-eating birds they foraged with in the Old World (drongos, rollers, starlings, hornbills, beeeaters, etc.). During most of the year, Cattle Egrets are white. In breeding plumage, they sport rich, buffy crowns, necks, and backs. The soft parts including the bill, feet, and legs change from yellow to red. Nesting colonies occur in trees or shrubs, often in the company of other herons and egrets. When Cattle Egret numbers are high, smaller egrets may be displaced from the colonies.

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Recommended Citation

. 2010. Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online:

This map is based on the maps available from the NatureServe InfoNatura website. The data for these maps are provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy - Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International - CABS, World Wildlife Fund - US, and Environment Canada - WILDSPACE.

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