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Cattle Egret
(Bubulcus ibis)

Cattle Egret

General description

Cattle Egrets are the smallest of the white egrets. The sexes are alike with all white feathers out of breeding season and yellow bill, lores and eyes.

They are adorned with rufous plumes and dorsal aigrettes in the breeding season, with an orange or red bill and legs that are shades of red.

Juveniles have black bills, legs and feet.

These birds are mostly silent however they do make a raucous croaking sound around breeding colonies.

Name & classification

Scientific name:
Bubulcus ibis

Common names:
Cattle Egret (English)
Veereier (Afrikaans)

Roberts VII english name:
Cattle Egret

Roberts VII scientific name:
Bubulcus ibis

Herons and Bitterns (Ardeidae)

Further information



Cattle Egrets feed on a wide range of prey, particularly insects, especially grasshoppers, crickets, flies and moths, as well as spiders, frogs, and earthworms.

They often accompany cattle or other large mammals, catching insect and small vertebrate prey disturbed by these animals.

Some populations of the cattle egret are migratory and others show post-breeding dispersal.

Cattle Egrets nests in colonies, usually near bodies of water and often with other wading birds.

The nest is a platform of sticks in trees or shrubs.

Natural distribution:
These egrets are found all over southern Africa.

Cattle Egrets exploit drier and open habitats more than other heron species. Their feeding habitats include seasonally inundated grasslands, pastures, farmlands, wetlands and rice paddies.

The adult Cattle Egret has few predators, but birds or mammals may raid its nests, and chicks may be lost to starvation, calcium deficiency or disturbance from other large birds.

This species maintains a special relationship with cattle, which extends to other large grazing mammals; wider human farming is believed to be a major cause of their suddenly expanded range. The cattle egret removes ticks and flies from cattle and consumes them. This benefits both species, but it has been implicated in the spread of tick-borne animal diseases.

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