AFRICAN BIRD A WEEK

Cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis)

Sara Gastaldi, Safari Guide & Designer, Italy

13 June 2020

Cattle egret is a species belonging to Ardeidae family (herons) , and it is partially migratory.

Originally native to Asia, Africa, and Europe, it has undergone a rapid expansion in its distribution, colonising the rest of the world in the last century.

During the breeding season, adults develop orange-buff plumes on the crown, back and breast and the bill, legs, and irises become bright red. 

Cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) during breeding season

Cattle Egrets follow grazing animals such as rhinos, cape buffalo, elephants and eat invertebrates stirred up from the ground. They may forage at the feet of grazing cattle or ride on their backs to pick at ticks. 

We can say then that cattle egrets have a symbiotic relationship with these animals.

The ungulates infact benefit from removal of parasites but also from warning against predators.

These birds use the same strategy even with cattle reared by humans, like cows, and they could also follow tractors in the crop fields. 

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