The cattle egret ; birds of Uganda – Uganda safari news
Scientifically referred to as Bubulcus ibis, the cattle egret is among the popular bird species explored on Uganda birding safaris and tours belonging the Ardeidae family thriving in the tropical areas, sub tropics along with warm temperature zone areas.
The Cattle Egret is recorded as the only member of Bubulcus monotypic genus though others classify the two of its sub species (Western and Eastern cattle egrets) as full species. Though their plumage resembles that of egrets from Egratta genus, the cattle Egret is closely related to the Ardea herons. The Cattle Egrets initially occupied parts of Africa including Uganda where they are viewed while on bird watching Safaris in Uganda, Asia and Europe but they have expanded to cover other parts of the world.
Cattle Egret is a white bird featuring buff plumes while in the breeding period. It nests in colonies mostly close to water bodies and thrive along the wading birds. They are noted to utilise the open and drier habitats than any other heron species. Cattle Egrets feeding habitats constitute farmlands, grasslands pastures and wetlands and usually follow cattle and other large mammals like Buffaloes as explored in Uganda Safari National Parks catching the insects along with other small invertebrate prey troubled by these animals. The consumed insects include; crickets, grasshoppers and flies while other feeds include; frogs, spiders along with earth worms.
The Cattle Egret is a notable stocky heron featuring a wing span of 88 – 96cm, the length of 46 – 56cm and weight of 270 – 512g. It features short thick neck, sturdy bill along with hunched posture. It has white plumage, greyish yellow legs and yellow bill. Though both sexes are similar, male is slightly larger as at times viewed on birding safari in Uganda
Breeding is done in nests with the pair forming for three (3) or four (4) days. The eggs range from 1 – 5 bluish white eggs but 3 and 4 are the most common. The Incubation occurs for a range of twenty three (23) days and both sexes share the incubation duties. The chicks are leave the nest at around two (2) weeks and turn independent around 1 ½ months.
Regarding conservation, the cattle egret is listed as species of least concern on the red list of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).