Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Cattle Egret

and it's fascinating breeding plumage

One thing that draws me out each spring to photograph birds is their attractive breeding colors.  I find changes in coloration fascinating, and in most species it renders a far different look from the same bird seen at other times of the year. 

Today I am highlighting the cattle egret.  It is a very common bird in Florida, and often seen in high numbers.  During breeding season, the cattle egret undergoes a transformation from a very common looking bird into one that is a joy to behold.  The most fascinating change to me is the lore, which turns a vivid purple right next to the bird's eye.  The headshot above shows this purple lore better than any other cattle egret photos I have made to date.  It was cropped from the image that appears directly below.   

The bird's legs, which appear red here, may be also be pink or yellow, and in the winter they are darker, or even black.

[click on any image to enlarge]

I have photographed this bird on many occasions over the past few years and the examples shown here were not captured in the current season. I am showing these particular images because I believe they show the colors very nicely.

The images below show a different bird that is not at peak color.  It also appears to be younger than the one above.   I have shown it from front, back, and both sides below.  You can clearly see the differences between a bird that is in peak breeding plumage and one that is not.


  1. Hi Tim,
    Fantastic post you got there. We have one of this egret in France too (I'm not sure it is the same although it is called the cattle egret too, and the colors pattern are slightly different during the breeding time) and it is also magnificent.... I love the portrait with this nice colors of bills and lore! It looks like you are having a nice weather ;-)

  2. Fabulous colours Tim, I'd never realised they got so 'pink'!

  3. You've captured their unique coloration quite well. Thanks for sharing! Cheers!

  4. ...I love seeing this bird. You photos are fab. I saw the breeding plumage last year in Hilton Head and fell in love with them.

  5. A very informative post with excellent photography, Tim. I like how you captured the detail in the feathers and the unique coloration.

  6. Stunning compositions Tim. WOW, this is magnificent...Thomas

  7. I had never seen those colors around the eye.
    Great captures, white birds are so hard to photograph.

  8. Tim, it was great to meet you at the Viera wetlands last week. I see Ken has posted some photos from the trip, I am looking forward to seeing ssome of yours. Brad