Cattle egret facts: Cattle egrets are white, chicken-sized birds with shorter legs and beaks than most herons and egrets have. They are 18 to 22 inches (46 to 56 centimeters) long from beak to tail and weigh between 12 and 14 ounces (340 and 390 grams). During breeding season, they grow light orange feathers on their heads, backs, and breasts.
Geographic range: Originally they lived only in Africa, Asia, and Australia, but they crossed the Atlantic Ocean to South America and started to spread. In the middle of the twentieth century, they reached North America. Cattle egrets are in all but the coldest areas of North and South America, in addition to Africa, Asia, and Australia.
Cattle egret habitat: Cattle egrets are more likely to be found in grasslands and farm fields than most herons and egrets. They also live at dumps, on golf courses and athletic fields, rice fields, and lawns. Sometimes they nest with other kinds of wading birds, usually on islands.
What does cattle egret eat: Cattle egrets eat mainly insects, especially locusts, grasshoppers, and crickets. They also catch flies, beetles, caterpillars, dragonflies, mayflies, cicadas, spiders, and frogs.
Behavior and reproduction: Cattle egrets often walk near cattle and other hoofed animals, and sometimes they even sit on them. The cattle stir up insects as they walk along, making it easy for the egrets to catch them. Cattle egrets nest in big colonies of a few hundred birds to several thousand pairs. Their stick nests are about 16 inches (40 centimeters) wide. The female usually lays four or five eggs. The chicks leave the nest two weeks after hatching, but they climb around the branches for another two weeks before they fly off.
Cattle egrets and people: Farmers are usually happy to have these insect-eating birds around. But when the birds form huge colonies near towns, some people consider them a nuisance. While trying to control the number of cattle egrets, people sometimes harm less plentiful herons and egrets that are with the cattle egrets.
Conservation status: Cattle egrets are not threatened. The cattle egret is one of the most common egrets or herons in the world.