When you drive pass the cattle ranches here in Citrus County, Florida you will see cattle egrets. The insects attracted to and stirred up by the cattle are readily eaten by these egrets. It is not unusual to see flocks of cattle egrets following behind the ranchers’ farm equipment. These birds feast on the grasshoppers, crickets, spiders and other insects stirred up by the machinery. The egrets will even stand on the backs of the cattle to glean flies and other insects attracted to the livestock. The cattle egret also eat frogs, lizards and even small birds if the opportunity arises.
Cattle egrets nest in rookeries, alongside tri-colored herons, great egrets and snowy egrets. After pairing the male and female build a stick nest and 2 – 5 eggs are laid. After 23 days of incubation, the chicks hatch, are fed by the parents and will be ready to fly in about 30 days.
Cattle egrets were not always native to North America. This species originated in Africa where they followed herds of African buffalo, zebras, elephants on the African plains. These egrets appeared in South America in the late 1800’s and traveled north into the U.S. via the Florida peninsula in the early 1940’s. I guess that the livestock “appreciate” the cattle egrets being here since these birds eat the insects that must annoy the cattle.