Wintering birds: c. 100
Family: Bitterns, herons & egrets
In breeding plumage cattle egrets are white with orange-brown 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 parts 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 and the bill has a black tinge at the tip.
Cattle egrets breed in colonies often with other species and produce one brood per season. They build their nests in reedbeds, bushes, and trees, up to 20 m above the ground. Both male and female build the nest which is constructed from sticks and vegetation and is reused for several years.
Cattle egrets lay 3-5 pale blue or light green eggs which are incubated by both sexes for 22-26 days. Chicks are covered in white down and aggressively beg for food. At 2-3 weeks the chicks can climb out of the nest but remain nearby. 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.
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.
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.
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