Cattle Egrets

I'm not sure when I first discovered cattle egrets but I know it was years ago.  I suspect it was sometime during the years we were in College Station, TX for graduate school.  We moved down here from the Chicago area and I'm fairly confident we didn't see these lovely birds up in Illinois. 

I know we saw them on the farmlands and rice paddies near our home in Katy, TX and saw them more often when we moved out to Simonton, TX.  In Simonton we lived in a subdivision but with small acreage and lots of horses in the area.

Cattle egrets are stately white birds of the heron family - think long legs and a long neck on a tall thin bird.  They are the smallest of the herons - about 20" tall, weighing a pound or more, with a wingspan of about 3'.  They are often seen in pastures where they follow the cows around to grab any small critters that are scared up by the moving grazers.  Cattle egrets will happily eat frogs, spiders, crickets, grasshoppers, earthworms or pretty much anything that jumps in their way including mice and small rats.  They also can be seen sitting on top of cows or other livestock and picking whatever ticks they can find off their temporary hosts.  Because they have a huge geographic range, you can find pictures of cattle egrets with elephants, rhinoceros, pigs, elk, deer, horses, cows, you name it.  If it's a large animal that grazes or moves through grazing land, it's likely they will have cattle egrets there also.

I remember seeing lots of cattle egrets when we first moved out here to Cat Spring but over the years their numbers dwindled.  I didn't realize how long it had been since I'd seen one until the last couple of weeks when they came back.  They aren't here in large numbers. I've only see 3 or 4 at a time but I'm so glad they are back.

We had one egret on the pasture fence near our pony Steele this morning.  There were 4 egrets in with the llamas and goats yesterday.  They are a wonderful sight.