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Montana Animal Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Cattle Egret - Bubulcus ibis

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Global Rank: G5
State Rank: SNA

Agency Status
FWP Conservation Tier: 3

External Links

General Description
A gregarious, white, chicken-sized bird easily recognized by its foraging association with grazing animals. Compared to similar-sized herons and egrets, it is short-legged and thick-necked; throat appears swollen (Telfair II 1994).

General Distribution

Western Hemisphere Range


Summary of Observations Submitted for Montana
Number of Observations: 48

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Relative Density


(direct evidence "B")

(indirect evidence "b")

No evidence of Breeding
(transient "t")

(regular observations "W")

(at least one obs. "w")


(Records associated with a range of dates are excluded from time charts)

The Cattle Egret is the most terrestrial heron; widespread and remarkably adapted to many habitats, both terrestrial and aquatic. Best described as a species adapted to naturally disturbed as well as to highly disrupted, converted landscapes, such as typical cattle and farm land and urban areas (parks, school grounds, sports fields, road edges, lawns, and city dumps and refuse areas) (Telfair II 1994).

Food Habits
Diverse diet which varies greatly according to foraging habitat, feeding opportunity, and prey availability. Mostly grasshoppers, crickets, spiders, flies, frogs, and noctuid moths (Telfair II 1994).

Reproductive Characteristics
Nests in multi-species colonies established by native herons, egrets, ibises etc. and uses a wide variety of sites and substrates. Nests in live and dead vegetation. Eggs typically subelliptical, light sky blue in color. Clutch size ranges 1 to 9 eggs, averaging 3 to 4. Most first broods occur from early May to early June, depending on weather conditions (Telfair II 1994).

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Citation for data on this website:
Cattle Egret — Bubulcus ibis.  Montana Field Guide.  Montana Natural Heritage Program and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.  Retrieved on April 24, 2014, from
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