Cattle EgretBubulcus ibis

adult, breeding
Rob Curtis/VIREO
adult, breeding
Arthur Morris/VIREO
Arthur Morris/VIREO
adult, nonbreeding
Fred Truslow/VIREO
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
Brian Pfeiffer/VIREO
Arthur Morris/VIREO
Cattle Egret


20" (51 cm). A small, stocky white heron, with buff on crown, breast, and back during breeding season. Legs pale yellow or orange in adults, blackish in some immatures. Bill short and yellow or orange; dark in juveniles. No other small white heron has a yellow bill.


Hoarse croaks


colony sounds #1
colony sounds #2


Forages mainly alongside livestock in open fields and pastures, but breeds near water with other herons.


Breeds locally from California and most western states east to Great Lakes and Maine, and southward to Gulf Coast. Also in American tropics and Old World.


Originating in the Old World, the Cattle Egret crossed the Atlantic, probably flying from Africa to South America, where this species was first reported in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The birds gradually spread northward through the West Indies and into Florida, then northward and westward. As in the Old World, Cattle Egrets in North America follow large grazing animals to feed on the insects they disturb and can often be seen perched on the backs of livestock. At some airports, especially those near salt marshes, these small herons wait at the edge of runways for passing airplanes to blow insects out of the grass. Unlike other egrets, this species rarely takes fish, although it is known to capture an occasional frog or toad.


3-5 pale blue eggs placed in a nest of sticks in a bush or tree. Usually nests in colonies with other herons in a marsh.

Similar Species

adult, breeding

Snowy Egret

20-27" (51-69 cm). W. 3'2" (97 cm). A small, delicate white heron with a slender black bill, black legs, and yellow feet. In breeding season, it has long lacy plumes on its head, neck, and back.


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