A solitary Cattle Egret has been lingering at Colonel Sam Smith Park in Toronto, Ontario since the beginning of November. Yesterday I headed out there in my SUV looking to upgrade my Cattle Egret photo library on a beautiful sunny morning and as luck would have it, the Cattle Egret proved to be a wonderful subject. It was rather tame despite numerous dogs and their dog walkers passing by. At one point, the egret flew briefly to the rocky edge of the lake and foraged for food, preened and posed for photographers along the Lake Ontario shore. The direction of light was excellent and I spent several minutes photographing it.
Unlike other egrets, Cattle Egrets do not wade in open water but they may forage along the edge of lakes as was the case here. They prefer grassy fields and, where common, are often seen feeding among cattle.
Cattle Egrets have broad adaptable diets and this individual did not appear to have any difficulty finding food, mostly insects on this occasion.
I was fortunate that the lighting was excellent on this morning and this egret was very co-operative, often posing perfectly in the morning light with the sun directly behind me. I also enjoyed the simple uncluttered backgrounds I obtained in several of these photos. The favourable light meant that I was able to keep my ISO settings low. At this time of the year in my local area the sun remains quite low in the sky for a longer period of time, which helps significantly when photographing birds and provides more hours of good sunlight direction.
I enjoy bird portraits that depict detail, but I also look for opportunities to show bird behaviour. This next series of pictures captures the egret preening.
In non-breeding plumage, the orange to red-orange legs turn black as on this individual. If this were an immature, its bill would also be black.
Cattle Egrets most closely resemble Snowy Egrets (see below), but they are stockier, heavier billed and shorter legged. Snowy Egret also have yellow feet. In non-breeding plumage, the orange to red-orange legs of Cattle Egrets turn black as on this individual. If this were an immature, its bill would also be black.
When I first arrived, the egret was foraging in a grassy area and successfully capturing bugs and insects as we see here.
Here the Cattle Egret poses in its more typical grassy habitat.
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Cattle Egret Bitterns, Herons and Allies
Dunne, Pete, 2006. Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, New York