Common Birds of India

Cattle Egret.( Bubulcus ibis )

Cattle Egret.( Bubulcus ibis )

It is a common scene in the country side to see buffaloes and cattle grazing around and a white slender bird tagging along them wherever they go. This is the Cattle Egret named so because of its habit of going around with cattle. In Hindi it is called Gai-bagla..

This white bird with slender long legs and yellow bill is distributed throughout the country. Both sexes are alike except for in the breeding season when the male has golden-orange buff colored plumes on its head neck, tapering towards the back. These birds go around with grazing cattle in search of insects, that are disturbed by the cattle and catch them. The moment an insect takes away from the grass it darts and catches it. Grass-hoppers, small frogs and lizards are its favourite feed.

These birds can be seen around pond shores also looking for beetles and small frogs in the water. Once it is evening, a flock of these birds take off in an arrow-head formation flight to their regular roosting trees. These birds are very silent and very wary. Their take off is a marvelous sight to see. Their flight is also very gracious with soft wing beats in slow motion.

Flocks often patronize the same tree for roosting. Nesting is chiefly around November to March in the southern part of the country and June to August in the northern part. This is probably because of the varying food availability. The nest is a twiggy mass lined with its feathers in trees more around water bodies. They colonize these trees and share the tree with other shore birds. Eggs are pale bluish white and 3 to 5 eggs are the normal clutch. Both sexes share all domestic chores. The young are very gregarious and both the parents have a tough time feeding them.

A gracious white bird whose flight is a marvelous sight to watch.

By Ragoo Rao

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