I am used to seeing Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis) where I live – usually in the company of cattle and, in the nearby national parks, in the company of animals such as buffalo and herds of zebra.
Sometimes one sees these birds congregating around water sources such as dams or on the edges of a farm reservoir. These ones are at the Hapoor Waterhole in the Addo Elephant National Park.
As Cattle Egrets usually forage in flocks in association with grazing animals, there is obviously a symbiotic relationship between them. Although I have occasionally seen an egret pecking at ticks on the tip of a cow’s tail, the main benefit for the birds is being able to catch the insects flushed by their four-legged companions when on the move. They chase down and stab their prey, which mostly includes insects such as grasshoppers, crickets and flies, although they have also been recorded as eating frogs, ticks, spiders, beetles, locusts, and moths. This one is striding through the vegetation to flush its food.
Adult Cattle Egrets have buff plumes on their crown, mantle and breast. These buff areas increase during their breeding season.
I found it very interesting to observe large flocks of Cattle Egrets busily working their way through the very dry veld in the West Coast National Park recently, with nary a large animal in sight.
They tend to roost – and nest – in high trees. There are a few tall trees in our town that are utilized for this purpose.