Western Cattle Egret

Bubulcus Ibis

Scientific Name

Western Cattle Egret:  
Bubulcus Ibis

Distribution and Habitat

Geographic Range

The Cattle Egret is found throughout the world and therefore very cosmopolitan.

Natural Habitat

Cattle Egrets are adapted to many different habitats. They usually live in fields, marshes, freshwater wetlands, pastures, livestock pens, swamps, and air strips. They are often found near cattle because they eat the insects that are usually attracted to cattle.

Physical Characteristics

  • The Cattle Egret is a small white heron that is usually about 19 to 21 inches long with a wingspan of about 3 to 4 feet. It is a short-legged and thicknecked bird with a hunched posture. Adults have dull yellow or orange bills and full orange legs while immature Cattle Egrets have black legs and bills. During the breeding season adults develop buff-colored feathers on their heads, backs and breasts and their legs and bills become brighter or reddish in color. In flight, they tuck their necks in close to its body, or hold it in an S-shape. Even at rest, the neck is rarely extended. Their vocal sound is a simple, husky, quiet “rick-rack”.

Quick Facts

  1. Cattle egrets are often named for the animals they follow.  They are also known as cow cranes or cow birds.

  2. Some ranchers rely more on cattle egrets than pesticides to control flies around their herds.

  3. The lifespan in the wild of these long-legged birds is up to 23 years.


M&T Bank Rainforest Falls

Conservation Status

Least Concern: The Western Cattle Egret is common or abundant and is likely to survive in the wild.

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Cattle Egrets feed on many different insects including grasshoppers, crickets, spiders, worms, flies and moths. They usually catch these by following livestock as well as many other types of wildlife and have even been seen following farm machinery to catch insects that have been disturbed. They tend to expend less energy searching for food by associating with cattle. In aquatic habitats they have been observed feeding on frogs and fish.