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Cattle Egret

(Ardea [Bubulcus] ibis)
Size: 48-53 cm; wing span 88-96 cm
Weight: 270-510 g

Similar species

Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Cattle Egret at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range


Click here for sighting information


Race "coromanda"



Frontal view of a Cattle Egret in breeding plumage
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, October 2010]

Frontal view of a Cattle Egret spreading its wings; in the background a pair of nesting Australian White Ibises
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2011]

Lateral view of a Cattle Egret in breeding plumage
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2011]

Near-dorsal view of a Cattle Egret (photo courtesy of M. & B. Midkiff)
[Minden, QLD, November 2013]

Dorsal view of a Cattle Egret
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, October 2010]

Cattle Egret doing what its name says it's got to do...
[Near Narrabri, NSW, January 2011]

Cattle Egret "hitching a ride"
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2013]

Cattle Egret on a meadow; photo courtesy of L. Tonnochy
[Near Townsville, QLD, January 2011]

Cattle Egret moulting into its breeding plumage
[Near Narrabri, NSW, September 2011]

Cattle Egret (right) and Intermediate Egrets (left) perched on reeds
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, February 2008]

Cattle Egret in breeding plumage in flight, seen from underneath
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, December 2010]

Lateral view of a Cattle Egret in breeding plumage in flight
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2011]

Cattle Egret in breeding plumage in flight, different perspective
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, December 2010]

Cattle Egret in flight carrying nesting material
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, October 2010]


Close-up view of a Cattle Egret in non-breeding plumage in flight
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, March 2012]

Cattle Egret in non-breeding plumage in flight seen from underneath
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, July 2012]

Small flock of Cattle Egrets arriving at Narrabri Lake
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, December 2010]

This photo allows a comparison of the relative sizes of a Cattle Egret (centre), a Great Egret (left) and an Intermediate Egret (right); all of them are searching for nesting material under a tree after a violent storm
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, December 2010]


Two (probably young) Cattle Egrets
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, March 2012]

Dorsal view of a fledgling Cattle Egret
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, February 2013]

This fledgling Cattle Egret still had problems taking off from the ground
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, February 2013]

Close-up near-lateral view of a Cattle Egret in captivity in the process of moulting (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)

Breeding information

Breeding season: Sep - Oct Eggs: 3 - 6 Incubation period: 25 days Fledging age: 42 days

The breeding season depends significantly on geographical latitude. In the tropical north Cattle Egrets breed Mar - May. They breed in colonies, together with other aquatic birds.

These Cattle Egrets are just moulting back into their breeding plumage
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, September 2011]


"bungobittah", "malunna" = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Basket Material: Sticks, lined with leaves Height above ground: 3 - 15 m

Cattle Egrets nest in trees along the banks of freshwater courses, lakes or dams.

Cattle Egrets have been seen by us nesting, together with other aquatic birds, at Narrabri Lake during the breeding season of 2008/09 and most years since then.

Frontal view of a Cattle Egret on its nest
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2011]

Lateral view of Cattle Egrets on their nests
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2014]

Example of colonial nesting by Cattle Egrets
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2011]

Cut-out of a larger photo showing part of a breeding colony of Cattle Egrets
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2014]


"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 45 x 34 mm Colour: Light blue Shape: Tapered oval


Social behaviour: Communal Mobility: Migratory Elementary unit: Flock

As their name already suggests, Cattle Egrets follow cattle in order to pick off animals that are disturbed in tall grass.

Cattle Egrets feeding together
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2011]

Food, Diet

All egrets and herons prey on aquatic creatures in fresh water or estuaries (fish, frogs, snakes or crustaceans). Cattle Egrets specialise in small prey, including large insects, that is disturbed by large mammals, but will hunt without "aid" as well.

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

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