Sunday, 3 December 2017

Reddish Egret (Aigrette roussâtre) in the Zapata Swamp, Matanzas, Cuba

21 November 2017

     Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens) is an interesting bird from many perspectives, including the fact that there is a white morph of the species, relatively rare, but in some populations comprising from 5 to 20 per cent of the total, and for its bizarre feeding strategy.
     

     We were very fortunate to encounter several individuals of the dominant colour phase on a recent visit to the legendary Zapata Swamp in Matanzas province in Cuba. In contrast with many other herons Reddish Egret is restricted to coastal waters and breeds in well concealed locations in mangrove swamps. 
     Its feeding strategy verges on bizarre and I have witnessed people burst into laughter watching it enact its strange antics.


     It feeds by walking slowly, walking quickly, running about, peering over, spreading its wings, jabbing, hopping and probing. It frequently stops, changes directions and veers off to another site. In The Herons Handbook (1984) it is described, albeit unfairly perhaps, as resembling a stumbling drunk. In The Herons (2005) the following identifiable feeding strategies are listed: Walking, Walking Quickly, Running, Hopping, Wing Flicking, Open Wing Feeding, Peering Over, Foot Stirring, Foot Raking, Underwing Feeding, Double Wing Feeding, Canopy Feeding and Hovering Stirring - always in exceptionally shallow and clear, reflective water.There has been a good deal of speculation in the literature about the origins of this behaviour and its efficacy as related to conventional heron feeding techniques, but it has obviously proven beneficial from an evolutionary perspective, for Reddish Egret.
     


     As always, I am grateful to Franc Gorenc who assumes the role of "official" photographer on many of our trips, for this fine sequence of photographs depicting the unique behaviour of a singularly interesting species.




     Several of my regular readers have inquired regarding the complete report of our trip to Cuba. Rest assured that I am working on it diligently and it should be published within the next couple of days.

31 comments:

  1. Ah you were in Cuba David. Wow and than this fabelous bird. I wonder what more you have in store for us to admire.
    Regards,
    Roos

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello, beautiful sequence of Reddish Egret photos. They are beautiful, I enjoyed seeing them in Florida. I am looking forward to your Cuba report too. Enjoy your day and new week!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Amazing egret David. Beautiful colors and great pictures.
    Well done !!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi David. You capture some of rather bizarre to our eyes behaviour of this egret. In some respects it reminds me of our own Little Egret but en thast species is not so almost comical of the Reddish.

    I was interested that you commented on your queue of trainees ringers. In the UK, and certainly in my local area, where birding places and "good" sightings are often just a few hours or less away, a text message or phone call can send many dozens or even hundreds of people to jump in their car in pursuit.

    Although I am sure things have changed in your own area since my own time there, I cannot imagine that there are so many birders pro rata in parts of of Canada where distances and time that it makes the situation as intolerable as it can be here. Bird pagers and twitter feeds are big business here to sheeple who claim to be birders but who arte simply listers. Trying to divert their time, energy and money into something more productive and dare I say, scientific, mostly falls on deaf ears.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Much of what you say about the birding scene here is true, Phil, although instant reporting via Twitter, Facebook etc. of rarities has had an impact. I think that, in general, (bearing in mind that there are always exceptions) twitching has not become the blood sport here it seems to have become in the UK.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Enhorabuena David, espectaculares fotos. Un abrazo.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Franc does take the most amazing photos. What a wonderful bird. It looks like a ballet dancer! Have a lovely week.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think a Whirling Dervish would be a more apt description!

      Delete
  8. Fantastic action shots of this bird!

    ReplyDelete
  9. All the photographs show that it is a bird with a sense of humour. You have captured the egret at the right moments.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Wonderful shots of the Egret. Franc did a wonderful job.
    Last photo looks like the Egret has the skids on to stop :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. This bird sure has style. My mind went immediately to Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner character from Looney Tunes. :))

    ReplyDelete
  12. The reddish egret looks like it is doing a dance! Have a great new week!

    ReplyDelete
  13. So, you have gone to Cuba, lovely, and you caught the Reddish Egret, fantastic David.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi David.

    Beautiful pictures of this beautiful bird

    Groettie from Patricia.

    ReplyDelete
  15. What a great set of pictures - I think that Franc Gorenc's status as official photographer is justified!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

    ReplyDelete
  16. It's good to have you back again, David - and it seems you've returned with some fine bounty! That Reddish Egret is a delightful bird, and Franc has given us a great insight into its behaviour with his excellent images. I look forward to more delights from your Cuba visit.

    With love to you and Miriam - - - Richard

    ReplyDelete
  17. Great looking bird, one I've yet to see sadly...........

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Safe to say that you are never going to see it in Japan!

      Delete
  18. Hello David,
    Beautiful picture of this beautiful heron species, this species does not occur in the Netherlands.
    photos 1,5 and 7 I really like.
    Best regards, Irma

    ReplyDelete
  19. Amazing photos as always David! - Tasha

    ReplyDelete
  20. Re: Your comment on my post here... I agree, North America does not seem to have the yen to name homes, as much as in the UK.

    Two questions, please... 1.) Why do you read my blog? 2.) Why visit Cuba?

    Thank you...
    Luna Crone

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 1. It's an interesting blog.
      2. Why not?

      Delete
  21. Hi David,
    And what a return, the Egret appears to be a well rehearsed dancer caught wonderfully by Franc with some outstanding images. Look forward to the full trip images.
    All the best, John

    ReplyDelete
  22. You really caught the egret dancing in those photos! I saw a funny video by BBC where they do voice overs of animal videos. There was one with the "nighttime daytime" bird. Looks similar to this egret (but black). I wonder if it's the same family. (Excuse my lack of bird knowledge).

    ReplyDelete
  23. Wow!!! Un reportaje fantástico David, las fotos son realmente bellas. Enhorabuena para ti y para Franc, un fuerte abrazo desde España.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Hi David,
    what a pleasure to see these phantastic images of a very funny, but also beautiful heron. Nature has so many different ways.

    Best regards, Corrie

    ReplyDelete
  25. Remarkable photo series ! We’ve watched that reddish egret ‘dance’ here in Florida a few times...the first, I was so in awe I didn’t even get one picture.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Heron is beautiful. Her behavior is specific, but also very interesting and fun. The pictures show it well. * I hope that in the new year, I will be efficient and will return the joy of life. Thank you for your wishes and greetings.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Very nice pictures of birds .. best regards

    ReplyDelete
  28. When I read your story about the feeding 'techniques' I started to laugh. I Think it was very funny to see and so are the gorgeous photograhs. Again a bird Ill only see on photo's but I enjoy it very much, he's so pretty and cute.

    Kind regards,
    Marianne

    ReplyDelete