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Western Cattle Egret

Silhouette HeronsHerons
Western Cattle EgretBubulcus ibis
  • ORDER: Pelecaniformes
  • FAMILY: Ardeidae

Basic Description

The short, thick-necked Western 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.

More ID Info
image of range map for Western Cattle Egret
Range map provided by Birds of the World
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Find This Bird

To find Western 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.

Other Names

  • Garcilla Bueyera Occidental (Spanish)
  • Héron garde-boeufs (French)
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