Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egrets have a smart way of catching their food…they stand on the backs of cattle, so when the cattle move and disturb the ground, they catch the disturbed prey.

Cattle Egrets are small, short-necked egrets with white bodies and pale orange-brown patches on their heads, necks, and backs.

Their irises and facial skin are yellow. They have short, yellow bills and short greenish-black legs. Males and females look similar.

Cattle Egret change color throughout the year and they become brighter, especially on legs and face during the breeding season.

During the breeding season, their pale orange patches become darker orange. Their bills, legs, and irises become bright red, and facial skin (lores) turn pinkish-red at the height of their courting. 

  • Bubulcus ibis
  • Length: 19 – 21 in (48 – 53 cm)
  • Weight: 17.98 oz (510 g)
  • Wingspan: 36 – 38 in (91 – 97 cm)


Cattle Egrets have a vast range around the world, but within North America, those in the south in Mexico, the Gulf Coast, and southwestern US states remain all year.

However, those that breed further north, mainly in eastern US states, migrate south after breeding.

Habitat And Diet

You can find Cattle Egrets in native grasslands, pastures, crop fields, and rice fields, especially where there is hoofed livestock. 

While they prefer to stay on land and on top of cattle, they do venture into the edges of aquatic environments, like riverbanks, ponds, and shallow marshes. They may also be spotted in golf courses, lawns, athletic fields, dumps, and parks.

Cattle Egrets’ diet is insects, mostly grasshoppers, crickets, flies, beetles, and moths. They also eat spiders, frogs, small snakes, lizards, earthworms, and fish.

Cattle Egret Calls:


Nests of Cattle Egrets are made from sticks and reeds and are usually built in colonies in woodlands near lakes or rivers, in swamps, or on small islands.

The female lays up to nine eggs which they incubate for about twenty-five days. It takes about forty-five days for the young to grow, fledge and become fully independent from their parents. 

Fun Fact:

The Cattle Egret’s eyes have adapted to foraging on land by having binocular vision for judging distance to catch prey on land rather than correcting for light refraction when feeding in water.