In recent times the Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis has accomplished some spectacular feats of colonisation around the world…so perhaps it was only a matter of time before they turned up on our doorstep!
A mob of these rather elegant, snow-white herons has taken up residence in the valley below Lanjaron, disturbed perhaps at their usual winter roosts, and friends are reporting them flapping off from the roadside as they drive down the tracks into the village.
Cattle Egrets do actually originate from southern Spain, in a range that originally included Portugal and parts of tropical and sub-tropical Africa and Asia. The twentieth century has seen a truly remarkable expansion by this species however, into north and south America, Australia and elsewhere…it first nested in the UK in 2008, after an influx was reported there only a year earlier!
Unusually within the heron family, the Cattle Egret feeds on open grassland, typically at the feet of livestock or big game. They take mainly insects – especially grasshoppers – disturbed as the animals pass, but also visit ploughed fields, rubbish tips…and, it would appear, orchards and gardens.
Despite its ability to established itself and spread these birds are really only short-distance migrants. Most populations are more or less resident in Iberia, with quite local, seasonal movement of some individuals occurring during the colder months.
This lot will probably move on soon…but it’s been great to see them around the terraces for a while. Keep checking in for all the rest of our birdwatching news as another month unfolds…and for details of our local birdwatching trips and holidays, click here.