Courtesy Kenn Kaufman
The Reddish Egret is a coastal species with a limited range. Seldom found inland, it breeds along the Gulf Coast of Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama, and around both coasts of Florida. It is also seen in southern California, Mexico, Belize, Cuba, the Bahamas, and other Caribbean islands.
A legend for the range map to the right can be found here
Reddish Egrets forage in calm, shallow brackish or salty waters, flats, and lagoons throughout their range. In Florida, the birds nest on mangrove keys; in Texas, they nest on bare sand, or amid cacti, willows, and other shrubs.
Small fish such as minnows, mullet, pinfish, and killifish make up the bulk of this wading bird's diet. The Reddish Egret's foraging techniques are among the most varied and active within the heron family. These techniques include extending their wings in a "canopy," to attract small fish into the shaded area underneath. They may also weave, leap sideways, run in circles through coastal shallows and broad, open tidal flats, and use their feet to stir up mud. They may even make strikes while hovering above the water's surface. The prey, once grabbed, is tossed to the back of the throat, and swallowed quickly.
Reddish Egrets reach sexual maturity when they are three to four years old. Courtship begins in the spring with the male positioning himself atop mangrove canopies or on low vegetation, and then engaging in a series of displays to attract a mate. These include aerial and stationary stretches, circling flights, and "crest-raising," which makes the head and neck feathers look strikingly mane-like. The birds typically nest with other heron species in mixed colonies, in small same-species groups, or occasionally, as isolated pairs. Nest building quickly follows pair formation and is carried out by both mates. The nests are constructed of sticks, lined with grasses, and located below the tree canopy, often over water, on mangrove keys in Florida, or on the ground in Texas. Clutch size is three or four pale, blue-green eggs. Parents share incubation, which is estimated to last about 26 days, and both feed the chicks. Young birds are capable of flight at about seven weeks of age, but they continue to be fed by adults for another two to four weeks.
Little is known about the species' migratory patterns, but in most places, Reddish Egrets are permanent residents. There are exceptions: some birds in Texas may wander as far south as El Salvador and Guatemala in the fall. Some have also shown a tendency to disperse from colonial nesting sites after the breeding season.