Bird Families

Egretta rufeScens


Herons are known for being patient hunters. Most species of these birds, including the common gray herons (Ardea cinerea), search for prey, slowly wandering in shallow water, or stand in one place for a long time without moving, waiting for a potential prey to be in the beak affected area. However, among herons there is one that practices a much more active way of hunting. We are talking about the reddish heron (Egretta rufescens), you see it in the photo.

This medium-sized heron lives on the Pacific coast of Mexico, as well as along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean from the southern US states to Colombia and Venezuela. It is also found on the islands, for example, in the Bahamas, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. The largest breeding groups of the species are recorded in Western Mexico and Texas. In some parts of the range, this species is sedentary, but at least some birds from the northern populations migrate to the south for the winter.

Map of nesting colonies of reddish heron. As you can see, they are all confined to the sea coasts. Image from

Unlike many other herons, which can live in various types of water bodies, reddish ones prefer a narrow strip at the border of the sea and land and rarely leave the coast. The favorite hunting grounds of this bird are shallow sea waters, lagoons, muddy shoals and shallow brackish lakes. She avoids water bodies overgrown with vegetation.

The salt lakes between land and sea are a typical hunting ground for the reddish heron. Photo © Sergey Kolenov, National Park Cienaga de Zapata (Parque Nacional Ciénaga de Zapata), Cuba, March 9, 2016

The reddish heron does not rely on patience and accuracy, but actively pursues and drives small fish and aquatic invertebrates. At first, it randomly runs through the water, scaring away the prey lurking at the bottom. Having noticed the victim, the bird chases after it, periodically changing direction sharply and jumping up and down. From time to time, the heron opens and raises its wings above its head to shade the water: this allows you to get rid of the sun glare that interferes with the view of prey. From the outside, all these movements look like an exciting dance. Having caught up with a frightened and disoriented prey, the bird grabs it with its beak and swallows it whole.

The African Umbrella Heron (Egretta ardesiaca), like the reddish heron, can shade the water with its wings. However, this species does not spend energy on active hunting: instead, the bird waits for the fish to swim under its "umbrella", mistaking its shadow for a safe refuge (a similar tactic is sometimes used by the reddish heron). Additional bait for prey is bright yellow fingers that resemble worms. Photo © Derek Keats from

Other species of herons feed on the seashores of the USA, Mexico and the Caribbean, but the reddish heron is the only one that has managed to master such an unusual hunting method. It is not surprising that bird watchers and birdwatchers pay special attention to this bird. For example, American naturalist and writer Pete Dunne noted the hunting skills of the reddish heron, calling it "Tyrannosaurus rex." However, not all epithets are so respectful: sometimes her behavior is compared to the flight of a drunk butterfly or the gait of a drunken sailor.

Hunting reddish heron

The repertoire of these birds is not limited to the hunting dance. Like other herons, they have a complex courtship ritual. Male and female greet each other, shaking their heads, and then arrange chases and circular flights. In addition, they scream loudly, snap their beaks and bulge their elongated plumage on the head and neck.

Mating dance of reddish herons. Photo © Peggy Rudman from

Another interesting feature of the reddish heron is that it is represented by two markedly different color variants, two morphs that were considered separate species in the past. The species got its name from a dark morph, the body, tail and wings of which have a bluish-gray tint, and the head and neck are reddish-brown. Birds of light morph are pure white. Dark reddish herons are more common in the north of the range, and pale herons in the south.

The reddish heron of light morph lies in wait for its prey. In addition to active pursuit, these birds sometimes use more typical hunting methods for herons, such as waiting. Photo © Sergey Kolenov, Cienaga de Zapata National Park, Cuba, March 9, 2016

A similar division into two morphs, snow white and dark, is also found in some other herons - for example, western reef herons (Egretta gularis), eastern reef herons (Egretta sacra) and Madagascar reef herons (Egretta dimorpha). The biological meaning of this is not very clear, especially since when choosing mating partners, representatives of these species are not guided by the morph and often form pairs of mixed colors.

The color of the dark morph of the reddish heron makes it possible to accurately distinguish it from other species, but the identification of birds of the light morph can cause some difficulties. Fortunately, even light-colored individuals have strong distinctive features. In addition to its behavior, it is a two-colored beak - pink at the base and black at the end, as well as gray-blue legs, for which the bird received an alternative Russian name "blue-footed heron".

Representatives of the genus Egretta, to which the reddish heron belongs, as well as several other genera of herons, grow graceful "lace" feathers on the neck, back and chest during the mating season. This feature almost led to the extinction of these birds. At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, fluffy women's hats decorated with aigrette bird feathers gained immense popularity. To meet the demand for them, hunters around the world killed millions of herons (see Plume hunting). One of the regions where this fishery flourished especially was the southern United States, which is part of the range of the reddish heron.

Although the snow herons (Egretta thula) and great egrets (Ardea alba) were hit hard, red herons were also killed for their feathers. This fact was even reflected in the video game Red Dead Redemption 2, which takes place in the United States in 1899. A participant in the game can hunt several species of herons, including reddish ones, and sell their feathers.

In the first decades of the 20th century, the fashion for hats faded away, and heron colonies were taken under protection, so that the populations of most of the affected species quickly recovered. However, the number of the reddish heron began to grow only after almost a hundred years. Perhaps the reason is the narrow ecological preferences of the species or its particular vulnerability to DDT.

Reddish herons nest in colonies, usually with other species of herons, gulls and other near-water birds. Although this species is very picky about the choice of foraging sites, it builds nests in a wide variety of places: in mangroves, on cacti and even on bare ground. Photo from the site

Today, the reddish heron remains an object of special conservation interest as the rarest and poorly studied of all North American herons. Ornithologists cannot even say for sure what the total number of this species is. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which considers the Near Threatened (NT) heron, its global population ranges from 10,000 to 20,000 adults. However, the Reddish egret international working group cites much more modest figures, ranging from 7,000 to 9,000 individuals.

Although the species has grown slowly over several decades, it now appears to have begun to decline again. Researchers blame the bird’s coastline buildings, residences, hotels, shrimp farms and infrastructure for this. In the future, sea level rise due to climate change will be an additional threat.

To help reddish herons regain their numbers, ornithologists guard their nesting sites and important foraging areas, as well as carefully analyze the dynamics of numbers and study the migrations of these birds. According to scientists, this work means more than protecting a single species. The preservation of the hunting grounds of the reddish heron will provide a chance for survival of entire coastal ecosystems and thousands of living organisms inhabiting them.

See also other dictionaries:

Egretta rufescens - Aigrette roussâtre Egretta rufescens ... Wikipédia en Français

Egretta rufescens - Garceta rojiza ... Wikipedia Español

Egretta rufescens - Rötelreiher Rötelreiher (Egretta rufescens) Systematik Klasse: Vögel (Aves) Ordnung… Deutsch Wikipedia

Egretta rufescens - rausvasis garnys statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas atitikmenys: lot. Egretta rufescens angl. reddish egret vok. Rötelreiher, m rus. blue-footed heron, f pranc. aigrette roussâtre, f ryšiai: platesnis terminas - baltieji garniai… Paukščių pavadinimų žodynas

Egretta - Saltar a navegación, búsqueda? Garcetas Egretta garzetta Clasificac… Wikipedia Español

Egretta - Pour les articles homonymes, voir Aigrette ... Wikipédia en Français

Egretta - Seidenreiher (Egretta garzetta) Systematik Klasse ... Deutsch Wikipedia

Egretta - Pour les articles homonymes, voir Aigrette. Aigrettes ... Wikipédia en Français

Egretta - Taxobox name = Egretta image width = 200px image caption = Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) regnum = Animalia phylum = Chordata classis = Aves ordo = Ciconiiformes familia = Ardeidae genus = Egretta genus authority = T. Forster, 1817 subdivision…… Wikipedia

Aigrette roussâtre - Egretta rufescens ... Wikipédia en Français

Rötelreiher - (Egretta rufescens) Systematik Klasse: Vögel (Aves) Ordnung: Schrei… Deutsch Wikipedia

Genus: Egretta T. Forster, 1817 = Egrets

The heron, when it flies, is easy to recognize: the neck is not stretched forward, like that of a stork or a crane, and is curved with the Latin letter S. Waving slowly, smoothly and rarely when soaring. Storks love to soar.

The fashion for jewelry almost killed all egrets in all rivers, lakes and swamps from America to Australia. For centuries and before, they have been destroyed for the sake of a bunch of white feathers that adorned the shako and helmets of the military. Especially a lot of snow-white sultans were supplied to European nobles and Turks at that time by Hungary. At the turn of our century and the last century, ladies also fell in love with chic aigrette, long "loose" mating feathers on the back of egrets. A truly global beating of white herons has begun! From Venezuela alone to London, the center of the world trade in precious feathers, 1.5 million of their skins were exported annually. They paid dearly: $ 32 for an ounce bundle of egrettas.

“In 1902, 1608 packages of egret feathers were sold in London. Each package weighed approximately 30 ounces, all packages together - almost 48,240 ounces. To get one ounce of feathers, you need to kill four herons ”(Helmut Kramer).

The year 1902 was not yet the most brisk trade. She has almost exhausted the natural reserves of her goods: there are few egrets left everywhere. Where before they were beaten by millions, and now thousands could not get it.

The fashion for egretka has passed. International agreements have taken the unfortunate birds under protection. Colonies of egrets have been restored in recent decades even in Western Europe. Little egrets, who were beaten as greedily as large ones, are now quite common birds in the rice fields of France, in the Camargue swamps and here and there in Spain. They nest in Hungary, where by the beginning of the century they were all killed. We have small egrets living in the south of Ukraine, in the Caucasus, in the Lower Volga region, in Central Asia. Large ones - in the same place (except for the Caucasus and Crimea), as well as in the Far East. The great egret is almost twice the size of the small egret. The genus of great egrets is represented on earth by one species, and small ones - by six: • in South Asia, Madagascar, Africa and the Americas. They are not always white, there are also dark ones. These are not subspecies, but "color phases", like the panther and jaguarundi.

The great egret (some ornithologists attribute it to the same genus as the small white heron) lives in a vast territory: America, from the south of the USA to Argentina, Africa south of the Sahara, Madagascar, southern Asia, from Turkey to Indonesia, Australia (in places and in Europe, as already mentioned). But it is rare almost everywhere. Small white is very similar to her, but much smaller, in addition, she has a black ring around her eyes (the large one has a yellow one). Both nest in reeds near the water or right there, in dense lakeside and river thickets on trees (this is typical for little egret). Eggs have been hatched since mid-April.

Gray and many other herons usually hunt like this: they stand in the water in a deep enough place and wait for some fish or frog to swim closer. Then it throws out its beak with lightning speed and grabs it. It will take a little if the place turned out to be uncommon or if it scared all its prey here, and again it will freeze in patient anticipation of hunting luck.

The little egret hunts insects, frogs and fish in shallower water. Usually he does not wait for them to swim, but, carefully rearranging his legs-canes, walks through the swamps. It freezes, looks out for who can be eaten, and sneaks up to him imperceptibly, then quickly rushes forward and grabs it with its beak. Or muddy the silt with his feet, looking for various trifles. And wanders along the coast in search of edible food, through fields, meadows. Rarely does one, usually several small egrets or a flock of them hunt together.

The big white rarely screams. Her voice is "a rough, hoarse crackle." Malaya likes to shout: her voice is a croaking "ark-ark-ark".

About the American Little Egret, they say that it hunts like this: it will freeze in shallow water with its beak pointing down and slowly move its yellow fingers, luring fish! As soon as they swim up the yellow "worms" to see better, they grab them with their beak.

Medium egret Egretta intermedia

STATUS. Rare species (III category)


A rare, irregularly breeding species, the northern border of the range passes through the territory of Russia.

Wing length 250 mm.

Spread. In Russia, nesting of the middle egret is established on the lake. Hanka (1). In all likelihood, it also nests in other places of southern Primorye, in particular in the vicinity of Olga Bay, where a pair of herons was found building a nest on May 12, 1976 (2). In addition, in July, birds were encountered on the island. Kunashir (South Kuril Islands), where, apparently, nested (3). In the spring-summer period, medium-sized egrets were regularly observed (or harvested) in the following places in the south of the Far East of the USSR: in the Khanka lowland (4), in the Lazovsky nature reserve (5, 6), in the vicinity of Olga Bay (2), near the village of Terney and the mouth of the Samarga (7), in the Peter the Great Bay on the islands of Bolshoi Pelis and Popov (5, 8), in the southern regions of about. Sakhalin (9). Outside of Russia, the nesting area covers areas of Asia from northern Japan to the west to Pakistan, as well as South Africa to the north to the border of the Sahara and Australia (10).

It nests in water bodies with dense reed beds, shrubs and woody vegetation, in mixed colonies of other stork species.

The number. On the lake. Khanka at the mouth of the river. Eagle in 1971 found 2 nests in one of the colonies of gray, red and great egrets. During the period of migrations and migrations, the average egrets stay alone, in two, or form flocks of 3-10, rarely 20-25 birds.

Limiting factors. The low abundance of the species is explained by habitat at the periphery of the range, as well as by the lack of places suitable for nesting, which arose as a result of human changes in the habitat of birds.

Security measures. Protection of birds during the period of migration and nesting is necessary.

Sources of information: 1. Polivanova, Glushchenko, 1977, 2. Labzyuk, 1981, 3. Nechaev, 1969, 4. Glushchenko, 1981, 5. Vorobiev, 1954, 6. Litvinenko, Shibaev, 1965, 7. Elsukov, 1974, 8 Labzyuk, Nazarov, Nechaev, 1971, 9. Gizenko, 1955, 10. Stepanyan, 1975. Compiled by V. A. Nechaev.