Common Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
Common Egrets are very popular with wildlife observers and nature photographers who enjoy bird watching, particularly during mating season, in hopes of catching these regal birds nesting, feeding or taking flight. Common Egrets are often found wading in the shallows of our wetlands in a graceful stance holding ever so still with watchful eyes searching for prey. The Common Egret has true white plumage with a distinctive "S" shaped neck, yellow bill and black feet. Although not quite the stature of the Great White Egret, the Common Egret is a rather large bird standing 37 to 41 inches in height with a wing span well over 4 ft.
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These beautiful wading birds, once common throughout their range, were almost driven to extinction by the plume trade in the late 1800's. Found throughout the mangrove swamps, tidal flats and tropical marshes of the Everglades, the Common Egret also occupies freshwater & saltwater wetland habitat throughout the Eastern Coastal & Gulf Coast states. Migratory patterns are wide for the Common Egret with range extending from Florida as far as Minnesota to the Mississippi Valley into Oregon and south to Mexico where they are found throughout the tropical Americas.
By the start of World War I, on a historic conservation timeline, many conservation groups were active in protesting those taking the lives of these birds merely so their plumes could be used in the fashion industry. As early in America's conservation history as 1903, it was President Theodore Roosevelt who established the first National Wildlife Refuge at Pelican Island in Florida to protect the Egrets, Brown Pelicans , Wood Storks and many other species whose populations were in significant decline. With the Passenger Pigeon declared extinct in 1914 increasing public awareness of the need to protect other birds, fashion was beginning to take a back seat to conservation.
Throughout Florida both sexes arrive from wintering grounds in mid-April with the first signs of breeding occurring shortly thereafter. Highly social, Egrets tend to colonize in rookeries with many series of vocal and physical displays attracting mates together. Bird nest building is a serious business with materials gathered and often taken from nests of prior years. Many individuals return to the same breeding grounds year after year. The male is active in procuring reeds, twigs, sticks and building material but the female usually takes charge of nest construction. Many nests are strategically placed 20-30 feet above ground level in the crooks of oak, gum and cypress trees and in the thickets of the swamps & mangrove trees. Copulation is a quick affair lasting sometimes just mere seconds. Eggs are laid, pale green or blue in color with both sexes participating in the 3-4 week incubation. Young hatchlings soon emerge covered in hair-like down. Baby Egrets, like most birds, are first fed a rich diet of regurgitated food from their parents. Young egrets are ready leave the nest in 6-7 weeks. One brood per year is the average reproduction rate for this species. Should the original clutch be destroyed for some reason, a replacement clutch is usually laid. Nests are usually made in colonies.
Aquatic foraging in the waterways is achieved by these birds using a foot-stirring method to attract prey. Common Egrets and similar species use their feet like rakes to probe and stir the bottom shallow waters then they quickly swallow their catch of fish, frogs, tadpoles, water snakes, insects and crawfish.
As always, we hope you enjoyed this article featured as part of TigerHomes Sanctuary's continuing Educational Series. We also hope you will take this opportunity to visit our world renowned Animal Cams . You are invited to take your own snapshots and enter your pictures into our Viewer Gallery Contest for a chance to win monthly prizes! The SANCTUARY is a permanent home to Rare White Tigers, Golden Tigers, Bengal Tigers, Siberian Tigers, African Lions and Lemurs . Our residents are quite the characters and simply amazing to watch in their natural habitats. It is our Mission to preserve and protect these Endangered Species. You can help save Endangered Species right now by visiting our Gift Shop. Many animals of the Everglades can be seen first-hand in our TigerHomes Educational DVD Series, Florida's Wild Future.
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More on Florida Everglades:
Florida Everglades | Pictures of Florida Everglades | Map of Florida Everglades | Animals Florida Everglades | Marjory Stoneman Douglas | Everglades Endangered Species
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