Western Cattle Egret:
Distribution and Habitat
The Cattle Egret is found throughout the world and therefore very cosmopolitan.
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.
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”.
Cattle egrets are often named for the animals they follow. They are also known as cow cranes or cow birds.
Some ranchers rely more on cattle egrets than pesticides to control flies around their herds.
The lifespan in the wild of these long-legged birds is up to 23 years.