Scientific name: Bubulcus ibis
Status: Scare migrant, recently bred
Wintering birds: c. 100
Conservation status: Introduced
Length: 45 – 50 cm
Wingspan: 82 – 95 cm
Weight: 300 – 400 g
In breeding plumage cattle egrets are white with buff feathers on their crown, breast, and back. Shortly before breeding their bill, lores, and legs become bright red. Their eyes are yellow.
Outside breeding season cattle egrets are white sometimes with a pale buff wash. Their bare pars are duller with a yellow bill, and dark legs and feet.
Both male and female cattle egrets look similar. Juveniles look like adults in non-breeding plumage with black bill, legs, and feet. Their eyes are pale yellow.
Cattle egrets breed in colonies often with other species. They build their nests in reedbeds, bushes, and trees, up to 20 m above the ground. The nest is constructed from sticks and vegetation and is reused for several years.
Cattle egrets lay 3-5 eggs which are incubated by both sexes for 22-26 days. At 2-3 weeks then can climb out of the nest. They are independent at 45 days and can fly 5 days later.
Cattle egrets eat mainly insects but will also take crustaceans, frogs, tadpoles, lizards, and small birds and rodents.
Where to see them
Cattle egrets can be found in the south of England and Wales. They are most often found near livestock and in winter they will congregate in flocks.
Did you know?
During the winter of 2007/2008 there was a large influx of cattle egrets into the UK which led to the first ever pair breeding successfully in Somerset.