Its range expansion during the twentieth century has been nothing short of sensational. From its original range in Africa it has expanded, by natural means to South America, onward to the islands of the Caribbean, the United States and is now regularly seen in the southernmost regions of Canada. It occupies the rank of the most numerous heron in North America.
During our recent trip to Cuba we encountered this species every day, often feeding in commensal fashion with livestock, giving credence to its name.
Its normal diet comprises insects, especially grasshoppers. Locust, grasshoppers and crickets are the common element of its world-wide diet and its feeding strategy seems designed to locate and capture orthopterans. Other components of its insectivorous feeding regimen include flies, beetles, caterpillars, dragonflies, mayflies and cicadas. Other prey includes molluscs, crayfish, frogs, tadpoles, lizards, snakes, fish, rats and birds. Vertebrates, especially frogs are important during the late nesting season to provide high-energy packets and calcium needed for development.
It is safe to assume that like most birds Cattle Egrets are opportunistic feeders and do not hesitate to capture whatever is available. Thus it was that Franc Gorenc photographed this sequence of an individual capturing and consuming a lizard.
Franc has often expressed to me that while he is happy when he obtains a great portrait of a bird, he is far more satisfied when he can capture a sequence of the bird acting out its life. A record of behavioural detail is what pleases him most and he often dedicates countless hours to shooting hundreds of frames in the hope of recording such an event.
I think all would agree that with this Western Cattle Egret at Club Amigo Marea del Portillo in eastern Cuba he has succeeded splendidly.
As always I am indebted to Franc for his enthusiasm in providing me with pictures to grace my blog; he is indeed a dedicated and skilled photographer, and a fine gentleman. It is my pleasure to call him my friend.