Cattle Egret

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The cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) is a egret species belonging to the family Ardeidae.

The cattle egret species are distributed in Asia, Indian Subcontinent, Europe, Africa, Australia and Americas.


  • Scientific Name: Bubulcus ibis
  • Common Name: Cattle egret
  • French: Héron garde-boeufs; German: Kuhreiher; Spanish: Garcilla bueyera;
  • Other names: Ardea ibis, Christidis and Boles (2008); Western cattle egret; Eastern cattle egret;
  • Family: Ardeidae › Pelecaniformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: (Linnaeus, 1758)

The three recognized egret subspecies are:
B. i. ibis (Linnaeus, 1758), B. i. coromandus (Boddaert, 1783) and B. i. seychellarum (Salomonsen, 1934).
Indian birds - Cattle egret - Bubulcus ibis
Indian birds - Cattle egret - Bubulcus ibis


The cattle egret is a medium sized bird, measuring 45 to 55 cm in length and weighing 250 to 500 grams. The wingspan is 90 to 95 cm.

The egret has a hunched posture. The non breeding birds have complete white plumage with yellow bill and yellow-grey legs.

In the breeding season, the feathers on the head, breast, crown and back turn an orange-red. The bill, irises and legs may also turn orange red. Their vocal call is something like 'rick--rack' with stress on the first syllable.


The cattle egret species inhabit grasslands, meadows, dry agricultural fields, open savannas, floodplains, swamps, paddy-fields, wet pastures, marshes and mangroves. They are very rarely seen in wooded areas and open oceans.

Feeding habits

The cattle egret species are often seen taking a ride on the back of cattle or wild herds. They catch insects, especially, beetles, dragonflies, mayflies, crickets, spiders, locusts and grasshoppers disturbed and flushed out by the animal movement.

The also feed on ripe fruits, vegetable matter, fish, frogs, small reptiles, birds and mammals.


The cattle egret species breed year round in tropical regions. The egrets in North America breed during April and May. The nest is constructed on trees and thickets with twigs.


The cattle egret species are found in all the Continents. The subspecies B. i. ibis occurs in Southwest Europe, Caspian Sea region, Africa, Madagascar and Americas.

The subspecies B. i. coromandus occurs in Southeast Asia, Indian Subcontinent, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The subspecies B. i. seychellarum occurs in Seychelles.

Movement Patterns

Post breeding dispersal is extensive. These egret species are partially migratory and move southwards for wintering. Birds from North America migrate to South America for wintering. They make long-distance dispersive movements in search of food sources.

Status and conservation

The worldwide dispersal and the presence of large breeding populations of these egrets indicate no threat to their conservation in the near future. They may get exposed to pesticides in the agricultural fields. These egret species are hunted and traded in Nigeria to supply the traditional medicine markets.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated these egret species and has listed them as of "Least Concern".

Biological classification of Bubulcus ibis
Species:B. ibis
Binomial name:Bubulcus ibis
Distribution:Indian Subcontinent, Asia, Australia, Europe, Africa and Americas;
Feeding habits:insects, crustaceans, frogs, tadpoles, molluscs, fish, lizards, small birds, rodents and vegetable matter;
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern

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