Birds of the Western Slope Nov. 22, 2017
By Evelyn Horn
Published Wednesday, November 22, 2017 1:31 pm
Photo courtesy Cronell Lab of Ornithology Cattle Egret
Jimmy Vela came calling today -- with a "peace offering," and we ate the whole thing! I remember telling him that I didn't really like zucchini, but we would try his zucchini bread.
It was delicious! Didn't taste at all like zucchini!
Then Jimmy removed the firewood that Tree Rescue had piled at the foot of the tree (nice that it's gone!). We actually had time to chat and Jimmy told me about the white bird that was "hanging out" with the cows. It surely sounded like a cattle egret, and that leads the story of how they came to be here.
It seems that this bird is not a native, but it imported itself. Each season two species of egret visit our reservoir. The great or common egret, about the size of our sandhill cranes, is totally white with a long, bright yellow bill and the smaller snowy egret is white with black legs and bill plus bright yellow feet. Both are native to our continent.
Non-native birds, such as the cattle egret, are usually introduced by humans, but this bird got here on its own! A native of Africa, it appeared in South America in the 1880s and reached Florida and Texas around 1950. So it's considered to be an invasive species and now occurs far inland, even to our reservoir.
I've seen this pretty bird many times, but I'm happy to listen to Jimmy's description of it. This 20-inch-tall bird is all white except for its delightful orange trim. The bill is bright orange as are its legs and feet. There's a pretty orange along the back of its head and an orangish wash along the wing and the chest.
The heron group native to our continent includes seven species. Here we have the great egret, the snowy, the great blue heron, and the black-crowned night-heron. To our south there are reddish egret, the tri-colored heron and the little blue heron. When in flight, all of the heron group pull their heads back into the shoulders giving them a singular, unmistakable shape.