15 Cattle Egret Facts You’ll Never Forget

Cattle egret facts are interesting because of their peculiar behavior.

Cattle egrets are a type of heron bird that is closely related to Ardea herons. They are found in almost all the continents of the world including North America and are native to Africa. Due to their habit of following cattle around, they are also known as cowbirds, cow herons, cow cranes, rhinoceros egrets, or elephant birds. Some of these birds are also migratory birds while some disperse to various nearby regions after the breeding season is over. In West Africa and southern India, they migrate long distances due to the rain season. In South America, they travel towards the south during the non-breeding season. Two subspecies of the cattle egrets have been noted, Bubulcus ibis ibis and Bubulcus ibis coromandus. The cattle egret was previously referred to as the buff-backed heron as it was often confused with other types of herons. Cattle egrets often breed inter-species with other herons which has led to hybridized results. Keep reading for more amazing facts about the cattle egret!

If you liked this article about cattle egret facts, also check out the other articles with facts about the Nicobar pigeon and the southern cassowary.

Cattle Egret

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Grasshoppers, crickets, spiders

What do they eat?


Average litter size?


How much do they weigh?

9.5-18.1 oz (270-512 g)

How long are they?

18-22 in (46-56 cm)

How tall are they?


What do they look like?

White, brown

Skin Type


What are their main threats?


What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Terrestrial and aquatic habitat


Africa, Eurasia, North and South America, Australia





Scientific Name

Bubulcus ibis





Cattle Egret Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Cattle egret?

A cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) is a type of heron bird.

What class of animal does a Cattle egret belong to?

The cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) species belongs to the Aves class of animal.

How many Cattle egrets are there in the world?

According to the latest research, there are around 3.8–6.7 million cattle egrets in the world.

Where does a Cattle egret live?

Although birds of cattle egret species are native to Africa and Spain, their population range map occupies a vast range of geographical area due to their association with cattle ranching. Their population range map extends from North America to Europe to Asia. According to the bird guide, it is also seen in South America, Australia, and Africa.

What is a Cattle egret's habitat?

The cattle egret species found in North America, as well as Eurasia, is equally comfortable near terrestrial and aquatic habitats. It can also be seen near urban areas apart from the usual fields with trees or shrubs where plenty of grazing livestock animals are present.

Who do Cattle egrets live with?

According to Cornell's Lab, North American cattle egrets sleep and rest together forming large colonies. The male cattle egrets get quite territorial over the regions they have marked as theirs. However, these North American birds feed in flocks so feeding sites are open to all. During the breeding season, once these North American birds form breeding pairs, they defend their nesting territory together.

How long does a Cattle egret live?

The average lifespan of cattle egret species is approximately 16.5 years in the wild.

How do they reproduce?

Cattle egrets are monogamous and form pairs during the start of the breeding season. The breeding season starts when the male birds start to mark their own territories and exhibit courtship displays to attract females. Interestingly, the female bird tries to establish her dominance over the male bird and the male ultimately allows only one bird to stay in his territory - forming the bond. Both male and female cattle egrets complete the nesting process together before laying eggs in colonies.

Whenever one mate returns back to the nest, the other mate performs a greeting ceremony. In the greeting ceremony, the crest feathers of the bird lay flat while the plumes at its back stand erect.

After gestation, females lay three or four eggs in each clutch which are light blue in color. Both the parents in the family incubate the eggs for three weeks. Parents of one family sometimes take in young birds from other broods if they are less than 14 days old. The young birds are quite competitive for food and within three weeks, the young can start to climb out of their nests. The young become fully mature and independent almost 50-60 days after birth.

What is their conservation status?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the cattle egret species as of Least Concern due to its continuous range expansion and extensive population all over the world ranging from North America and South America to Africa, Europe, Australia, and Asia.  

Cattle Egret Fun Facts

What do cattle egrets look like?

Cattle egret facts are amazing as the birds have an interesting relationship with cattle.

Cattle egrets are medium-sized birds and have orange-colored short legs and bill. They also have thick necks. The species has a white-colored plumage along with an orange or yellow bill. During the breeding season, the plumage of the entire body of these birds becomes quite fluffed up and their bill becomes red in color.

How cute are they?

Cattle egrets are not very cute with their short legs and bill, but they look quite impressive when they display the colored crest on their head.

How do they communicate?

According to Cornell Lab, the cattle egret species is a generally silent bird and becomes vocal in the breeding colonies. Their calls make a 'rick-rack' sound and they display intense aggression during the breeding season in the colonies when each male is trying to create a family. The crest being straight up on top of the birds' heads indicates when the birds are aggressive.

How big is a cattle egret?

The average length of a cattle egret is between the range of 18-22 in (46-56 cm).

An Asian forest-dwelling Gaur is one of the animals which is almost ten times the size of a cattle egret as they can grow up to 180 in (4.5 m) in length.

How fast can a cattle egret fly?

The speed at which cattle egret species can fly has not been noted by researchers yet.

How much does a cattle egret weigh?

The average weight of cattle egrets is approximately between  9.5-18.1 oz (270-512 g).

What are their male and female names of the species?

Cattle egrets do not have unique names for the male and female types of their species so they are just denoted as male cattle egrets and female cattle egrets.

What would you call a baby cattle egret?

A baby cattle egret is usually referred to as a nestling.

What do they eat?

Cattle egret have a carnivorous diet which includes small insects like grasshoppers, spiders, flies, crickets, worms, and moths. Apart from insects, they also forage earthworms in their habitat.

Are they poisonous?

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, cattle egrets are not known to be poisonous.

Would they make a good pet?

A cattle egret would not make a good pet as these North American birds are comfortable in a wild habitat and often migrate for long distances.

Did you know...

The Maasai group of people in Kenya and Tanzania think that the influx of a large number of cattle egrets means that the area will face a drought very soon. Therefore, they move their cattle to another location.

Why do cattle egrets follow cows?

Cattle egrets have an interesting relationship with cattle. Cattle egrets are opportunistic feeders who associate with livestock such as cattle, buffalos, hippopotamuses, zebras, and giraffes. They use their legs to perch on the back of these animals like cows and eat the active insects who are disturbed by the grazing activities of the animal on top of which the bird sits. This way, they do not have to spend a high amount of energy on feeding but can actually catch more insects just by staying near their host animal. Therefore, the cattle egret and cow relationship is one of parasite and host.

Can you eat cattle egret?

Cattle egrets are not edible and are not eaten by humans. Instead, some farmers and ranchers actually rely on this bird for pesticides and controlling insects by preying upon them.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including birds of paradise facts and barn owl facts.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable cattle egret coloring pages.



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