Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis
The Cattle Egret is a stocky heron with an 88–96 cm wingspan; it is 46–56 cm long and weighs 270–512 g. It has a relatively short, thick neck, a sturdy bill, and a hunched posture. The nonbreeding adult has mainly white plumage, a yellow bill, and greyish-yellow legs. During the breeding season, adults of the nominate western subspecies develop orange-buff plumes on the back, breast, and crown, bill, legs, and irises become bright red for a brief period before pairing. The sexes are similar, but the male is marginally larger and has slightly longer breeding plumes than the female; juvenile birds lack colored plumes and have a black bill.
The adult cattle egret has few predators, but birds or mammals may raid its nests, and chicks may be lost to starvation, calcium deficiency, or disturbance from other large birds. This species maintains a special relationship with cattle, which extends to other large grazing mammals; wider human farming is believed to be a major cause of their suddenly expanded range. The cattle egret removes ticks and flies from cattle and consumes them. This benefits both species, but it has been implicated in the spread of tick-borne animal diseases. Their feeding habitats include seasonally inundated grasslands, pastures, farmlands, wetlands, and rice paddies. They often accompany cattle or other large mammals, catching insects and small vertebrate prey disturbed by these animals. Some populations are migratory and others show post-breeding dispersal.
It is a white bird adorned with buff plumes in the breeding season. It nests in colonies, usually near bodies of water and often with other wading birds. The nest is a platform of sticks in trees or shrubs. Cattle egrets exploit drier and open habitats more than other heron species.
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