Cattle Egret  ( Héron garde-boeufs )      This species is on the OBRC review list for northern Ontario.  All sightings should be documented and reported.

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Bubulcus ibis


Cattle Egret
Photo Date: October 8, 2003
Location: Gowganda
Photographer: Gertrude Trudel

General Notes

Originally an African bird, the first appearance of the Cattle Egret on this side of the Atlantic was in Brazil in 1877. It's first documented appearance in North America was in Florida in about 1940, and by 1953 was known to be breeding there. It was first observed in Ontario in the spring of 1956. The first Canadian nests were discovered in 1962 in southwestern Ontario. Between 1956 and 1972, population growth was exponential in the US, with a 2,000 fold increase. In the southern US it has become quite abundant.

Although the Cattle Egret has been known to breed rarely in extreme southwestern Ontario since the first nest in 1962, no nests have been documented in this province since the mid-1970's. Even so, this species turns up nearly every year somewhere in Ontario, typically from late summer through fall.  Post-breeding adults and juveniles disperse widely from colonies in their extensive US breeding range. Few birds return to their natal breeding site, with most juveniles exhibiting long-distance dispersal. Solitary Cattle Egrets are often seen flying through southwestern Ontario in spring, and larger groupings are occasionally seen in the fall.

About the size of a Crow, Cattle Egrets are upland birds. Unlike other egrets, they feed primarily on terrestrial rather than aquatic invertebrates. Foraging birds walk slowly and more erect than gulls, with exaggerated head-bobbing movements, usually following grazing livestock or tractors tilling fields. They are often seen in the company of similar sized gulls, and are known to also sometimes scavenge at dumps. 

Abundance: Out of range
Breeding Status: Accidental

Documented Observations

October 27-28, 1986. One observed in Swastika by Kenneth Dolmage. Photo on file with OBRC.

October 8, 2003. One observed in Gowganda by Gertrude Trudel.  Photo on file with OBRC.

December 11, 2003. One juvenile observed and photographed in a residential area in Larder Lake by Mike Shortt. Photo on file.