“ELEGANT COOT CABARETS” (6,6,2,5 anag.): CATTLE EGRETS ON ABACO
The CATTLE EGRET Bubulcus ibis is a species of heron with an affinity with cattle and other grazing animals. It’s a two-way thing – they relieve a cow of its ticks and flies, and get a ready meal return. Their name is the latin for ‘herdsman’.
Originating in Africa, these birds have proved to be one of the most successful and resilient bird species at expanding their breeding populations around the globe.
Range map – yellow: breeding – green: year-round – blue: non-breeding
The first sightings in North America were in 1941, then assumed to be escapees. Far from it. They flew in and multiplied. By 1953 they were breeding in Florida; in Canada in 1962; and in the Bahamas in the 1960s. Now they are everywhere – though (depending, like, how old you are) your grandparents might never have seen one… Here’s a helpful wiki-graphic
Range expansion in the Americas
In the breeding season, cattle egrets develop pinkish-buff patches on their front, back and crown, and grow matching head-plumes
Recently we saw one at Sandy Point when photographing kestrels. It’s no longer in full breeding plumage, but traces of a pinkish tinge can still be seen.The cattle egret’s eyes are positioned so that while they are feeding they have binocular vision. I’m not quite sure why that would be advantageous; you might think they’d prefer one eye on their food, and one on the look out for predators
When on the move the egrets may adopt a stooping, creeping stance
These birds have capacious mouths, which enable them to vary their diet from small maggoty things to larger insects, then through snails to small frogs and the like
Although the neck generally looks slim, they appear to have an expandable gullet which no doubt helps with larger food items
Now. Time to get back to the Crossword…
BINOCULAR VISIONGraphics, breeding plumage & header: redoubtable wiki; other images RH
ADDENDUM The redoubtable dou dou, creator of tiny and cute handmade bird models, has been inspired by these fine creatures to make a handsome pair. Check out her site with the link above… and you can even buy your very own cattle egrets there