Holiday Ranch
Breeder of South Poll Grass Cattle

Cattle Egrets, They’re back!

Cow birds!  They’re ba-ack.  A sure sign spring is here.  Actually, they’re cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis), a type of heron, but the locals call them cow birds. 

I had never noticed a cattle egret until our South Poll cows were delivered here to Holiday Ranch in 2004. The egrets are to be found in the pastures with large livestock such as cows and horses.  I suspect they also spend time with smaller herds such as sheep and goats.  They are really a beautiful, graceful bird somewhat like a heron.  Apparently the flocks we have are migratory, flying to warmer climates for the winter and returning as soon as the weather warms.

The cattle egrets spend their day in the pasture with the cows eating the insects and earthworms the cows stir up.  Occasionally an egret will alight on the back of a cow, especially if she is lying down.  I just read that the birds actually eat parasites such as ticks and flies off the cow.  The cows don’t mind the egrets, they simply ignore them.  Sometimes there appear to a hundred or more of the birds present in the pasture.  When we bush-hog the pastures, they must come from far and wide because the fields are just covered with white birds feasting on all sorts of insect goodies.  At other times, a large flock will line up on top of the fences.  I real sight to see!

They roost each night in the cypress swamp at Sister and Tommy Milligan’s ranch across the highway from us.  We sit on our front porch and watch many hundreds, possibly thousands, fly in at dusk.

 Cattle egrets, they are a good thing.  They make me smile.

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