Cow Birds Around the World

Photo Credit:  K. Nixon

Photo Credit: K. Nixon

In response to my post about the egrets I saw from the train window in New Jersey, my sister-in-law, Kelli, wrote to me about the egrets in her neighborhood in the Dominican Republic. When she mentioned that they hang out with the cows and horses, I knew exactly the bird she was talking about.  The first time I remember seeing one was on a family vacation to Louisiana.  We usually headed west to the Rockies so much was new to us on our road trip from Kansas to New Orleans.  Bullfrogs croaked through the night and each bovine had a bird or two hanging out at its side.

The cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) is native to Africa, but somehow made its way, first, to South America in the 1940s and, then, north to the Caribbean Islands and the United States, where it is now common.  They trail livestock and tractors looking for the insects that get stirred up by the movement.

Smaller and stockier, they are not as elegant as the snowy or great egret (both native to North America), but are entertaining to watch bobbing along beside, or sitting on top of their hosts.

In other languages, as in English, they are generally identified by the company they keep:  cow cranes, elephant birds, rhinoceros egrets.

 Photo Credit: dorgel1 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: dorgel1 via Compfight cc





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