At least once or twice each week I visit Cairn Curran Reservoir, usually travelling across Joyce’s Creek and then wending my way around the storage to Picnic Point.
On recent visits I’ve observed, most times, at least one but up to three Great Egrets, as I cross the creek. Yesterday afternoon a smaller white bird, clearly an egret, caught my attention as it sat crouched on a limb of one of the dead River Red Gums along the creek.
It was an Eastern Cattle Egret, a bird that I haven’t seen in the district for some years. This one was all-white, a juvenile lacking the orange-buff feathers that are typical of breeding birds – traces of this plumage are often also seen in non-breeding individuals.
As their name suggests Cattle Egrets are generally found as small flocks in association with livestock, especially cattle, where they forage for insects disturbed by the grazing animals. Cattle Egrets are much smaller than both the Great Egret and Intermediate Egret (a rare visitor). The prominent feathering under the bill, creating a ‘jowled’ appearance, is a distinctive feature.