Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

Bubulcus ibis
Population size
4-9.8 Mln
Life Span
23 yrs
51 km/h
270-512 g
46-56 cm
88-96 cm

Among the species of the same category, the Cattle egret has a relatively small body. It has long brownish hair on the crown of its head. The feathers are white with slight brown coloring. Lean and short legs are reddish brown in color. The Cattle egret has a slender reddish beak with a bright yellow top.


The Cattle egret is a native African and southern Spanish species, also found in Eurasia and North America (except for the west and far north). In addition, the area of their distribution includes Australia and, partly, South America. The major habitat of the cattle egret is wetlands, grasslands and woodlands. These birds generally avoid arid areas. They are found in croplands and pastures with poor drainage. The egrets are often seen with cattle and other livestock. Also, the Cattle egrets occasionally forage at garbage dumps.

Cattle Egret habitat map


Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Show More Barbados, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, DR Congo, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, Cuba, Cyprus, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Honduras, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, North Korea, South Korea, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Macao, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Federated States of Micronesia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Palestine, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sao Tomé and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Western Sahara, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Albania, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan Show Less
Introduced Countries

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Cattle egrets are diurnal, feeding by day and sleeping at night. They are known to be highly sociable animals, closely associating with grazing species. Cattle egrets share roosting colonies with other colonial waterbirds. The egrets are migratory birds, gathering in flocks with other ardeid species. Yet, Cattle egrets wander extensively, so it's difficult to distinguish whether they migrate or just disperse. Also, these birds usually fly in flocks to and from breeding, roosting and feeding sites. A male at the colony site can defend one or two territories. However, these birds always feed in flocks, so there's no territorialism at the feeding site, since it belongs to the entire flock.

Diet and Nutrition

Cattle egrets are generally insectivorous. Their diet consists of insects such as locusts and grasshoppers. These birds also consume rodents, lizards, frogs, crustaceans, tadpoles, mollusks, fish as well as small species of bird. In addition, they often forage at rubbish dumps.

Mating Habits

varies with location
24 days
6-7 weeks
3-4 eggs

Cattle egrets are seasonally monogamous: they mate once a year, staying together until the end of the nesting season. They do not tend to pair again with their mates from previous years. The male finds and brings sticks while the female builds from it a nest in a tree or shrub, after which 3-4 eggs are laid. Breeding season depends on the region. Both the male and the female participate in incubation of the eggs during 24 days. These birds are very careful parents: both of them feed their chicks by regurgitation and one of them is constantly with the young during the first 10 days of their lives. About three weeks after hatching, the chicks start climbing around the nest. The young egrets start flying at the age of four weeks, while at about 6-7 weeks they are fully independent. By this time, juveniles become strong flyers, able to travel long distances. They usually start breeding at 2 years old.


Population threats

One of the main threats to the Cattle egret population is habitat loss and destruction. For example, wetlands and lakes, that are breeding areas for these birds, undergo drainage for irrigation or production of hydroelectric power. Consequently, in some areas of their habitat, these birds are threatened with pesticide poisoning. On the other hand, colonies of Cattle egrets, nesting in urban areas, can be unwelcome and persecuted. In Nigeria, these birds are hunted for commercial trade at local traditional medicine markets.

Population number

The total number of Cattle egret population is about 4.000.000-9.850.000 individuals. The European population is estimated at 76.100-92.300 pairs, which equates to 152.000-185.000 mature individuals. The species has increasing population and is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.

Ecological niche

Due to consuming crop pest such as insects, these birds benefit farmers and protect cattle from infestations of ticks.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • They are opportunistic feeders: Cattle egrets successfully catch insects, following large animals and farm machines. In fact, feeding with livestock helps them get about 50% more food, using only two-thirds as much energy as they usually do.
  • These birds can come to a fire from far away in order to catch fleeing insects.
  • They are known to wait for airplanes at airports to pass by grass and blow the insects out.
  • According to a study, conducted in Australia, feeding upon insects, these birds significantly reduce the number of flies that peck cattle off their skin.
  • This bird is named for its association with cattle. The Cattle egret can often be seen with livestock such as horses, cows and sheep as well as following around large wild mammals.


1. Cattle Egret Wikipedia article -
2. Cattle Egret on The IUCN Red List site -

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