Parking lot bird

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What’s up, egret?

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Yesterday we looked for birds in a nature preserve and I didn’t get any pictures of any birds. Then when we stopped at Home Depot to get mulch there was a Cattle Egret walking around in the parking lot.

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Seeing a largish white bird walking around very close to people is still new to me, but Cattle Egrets seem pretty comfortable with it.

One day I saw one standing next to a cashier inside the garden center at the Stuart Lowes. Another time I watched one eat a lizard right in front of the doors of the Hutchinson Island Publix grocery store, with people walking around it.

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The short, thick-necked Cattle Egret spends most of its time in fields rather than streams. It forages at the feet of grazing cattle, head bobbing with each step, or rides on their backs to pick at ticks. This stocky white heron has yellow plumes on its head and neck during breeding season.

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Cool facts

  • Cattle Egrets are native to Africa but somehow reached northeastern South America in 1877. They continued to spread, arriving in the United States in 1941 and nesting there by 1953. In the next 50 years they became one of the most abundant of the North American herons, showing up as far north as Alaska and Newfoundland.
  • Cattle Egrets follow large animals or machines and eat invertebrates stirred up from the ground. They will fly toward smoke from long distances away, to catch insects fleeing a fire.
  • The Cattle Egret has a broad and flexible diet that occasionally includes other birds. In the Dry Tortugas off the coast of Florida, migrating Cattle Egrets have been seen hunting migrating warblers.
  • Cattle Egrets have many names around the world, usually referencing the grazing animals they team up with to forage. In various languages they are known as cow cranes, cow herons, cow birds, elephant birds, rhinoceros egrets, and hippopotamus egrets.

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