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Conservation status: Great blue herons are not threatened. However the population of the all-white great blue herons is getting smaller because of habitat destruction. Physical characteristics: 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 and 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.

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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.

Great Blue Herons Among Nature’s Best Fishermen

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. Diet: 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.

Grey heron - Wikipedia

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.

At a Glance

Physical characteristics: The Eurasian bittern is a thick-necked, medium-sized, golden brown wading bird. It has black feathers on its head and a black "moustache. The feathers on their backs are speckled, which helps them hide among the plants. Habitat: They breed among dense, close together, plants in shallow water.

During the rest of the year, they spread out to other wet areas, including ponds, ditches, and rice fields. Diet: Eurasian bitterns eat fish, frogs, insects, small mammals, small birds, and snakes.

Country diary: the heron's heroic appetite for survival

They hunt by walking slowly among the plants, lifting their feet high with every step. Behavior and reproduction: When a Eurasian bittern spots a predator, it can "freeze" for hours, with its beak pointing upward and eyes pointing forward. It sways like a blade of grass, making it camouflaged KAM-uh-flajd among the plants. It defends its breeding and nesting area by making loud, booming noises and fighting on the ground and in the air.

A male bittern may have as many as five mates within his territory. Each female usually lays four or five eggs and the young leave the nest two weeks after hatching.

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They can fly by the time they are fifty-five days old. Eurasian bitterns and people: As a result of the bittern's booming call, when it appears in folk tales and legends, it is usually wicked or it brings bad luck. Conservation status: The Eurasian bittern used to be widespread and abundant, but now it is listed as Vulnerable, facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future, in many areas. Elliott, and J. Sargatal, eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World.

Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, Eckert, Allan W. The bird can use its bill to apply this down to areas of blood, mud or slime on its ordinary plumage. The powder down will absorb the mess and can then be scraped off using the serrated claw on the middle toe, so cleaning the plumage. Some species of Heron nest and roost together in a certain tree or group of trees, i.

These Heronries are often quite a distance from feeding areas and the birds will commute sometimes several times a day between the two. Many Heron and Egrets are expressive birds with a wide range of display actions which they use during courtship. These involve modifications of other displays such as threat displays. They include forward and upward stretches, bill snapping and rattling, circling and pursuit flights. Males will offer females twigs as gifts or as a hint that it is time to start building a nest.

Nests are usually built in trees and most species nest colonially, often in mixed colonies with other wetland birds such as Storks, Ibises and Spoonbills as well as other species of Heron. During the courtship period many species undergo colour changes to the soft parts of the body. By soft parts ornithologists mean those parts not covered by feathers such as the legs, bill and lores the bare skin around the base of the bill.


These are often different in different races or sub-species and can also be important in species identification. Several Heron species have different coloured morphs or forms, for instance there are white forms of normally coloured birds such as the white form of the Great Blue Heron or dark forms of a white birds such as the Blue Morph of the Eastern Reef Heron Egretta sacra.

Most confused of all is the little Egret Egretta garzetta which comes in 6 distinct forms - 3 white, 3 dark.

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The nominate race or the form by which all the others are defined is Egretta garzetta garzetta. It is white with black legs and bill and yellow eyes and feet. Form nigripes has black feet and form immaculata has yellow lores and black feet. The three dark forms are dimorpha which is dark blue with a white throat patch, black legs and bill with yellow feet and lores. Form gularis has its legs and bill yellow to brown and form schistacea is very varied and basically it is not any of the others and occurs in India.

Note that forms gularis and dimorpha are now considered to be separate species by some authorities. The victim is usually swallowed whole. I suspect a minnow or two met their fate that day in the form of a floating leaf. The birds have also been known to plunge completely beneath the surface to capture prey in deep water, which requires them to use the webbing between their outer toes to help them swim back to shore.

In the South, this behavior occasionally backfires when the swimming herons fall prey to alligators. During the breeding season, green herons share nest building responsibilities — the male selects long thin sticks that the female arranges into a shallow nest in a tree or bush overhanging the water. Whereas most herons and egrets nest in large colonies, green herons are solitary birds that prefer to raise their young in a secluded site concealed by branches. They lay three to five pale green eggs that hatch after three weeks. After the nesting season, green herons are wanderers, sometimes traveling great distances in search of good feeding habitat before migrating to Latin America in September and October.

While the birds conceal themselves well and are sometimes difficult to observe, in flight they are distinctive and noisy.