Cattle egret

(Bubulcus ibis)




Facts about this animal

With a total length of 48-53 cm and a wing span of 90-96 cm, the cattle egret is one the smaller members of the heron family, and is the smallest of the four white egret species in Southern Africa from which it can easily be distinguished by its shorter neck.

Sexual dimorphism is minor: males are slightly larger than females and have the feathers of chest and centre of mantle cream buff during the non-breeding period while females are white. During breeding, the plumage looks alike in both sexes, being partly ginger-buff and partly white. The bill and iris are yellow for most of the year turning red for a short period before egg-laying. The legs are yellowish-green and the feet dark green for most of the year. During the reproduction period the feet will become red and then yellow.

The cattle egret has got its name because it has the habit of feeding in association with slow-moving herds of cattle or other large herbivores.

Did you know?
that the cattle egret has undergone an enormous expansion in range in the last century, initially through Africa, Southwest Europe, South and East Asia, but has now colonized all continents except the Antarctica? It thus has a fair claim to a place among the few cosmopolitan bird species, even if it has scarcely yet ventured into much of northern and eastern Eurasia or far-northern America.


Class AVES
Suborder ARDEAE
Name (Scientific) Bubulcus ibis
Name (English) Cattle egret
Name (French) Héron garde-boeuf
Name (German) Kuhreiher
Name (Spanish) Garcilla bueyera
Local names Afrikaans: Bosluisvoël
Czech: Volavka rusohlavá
Italian: Airone guardabuoi
Greek: Geladáris
Hungarian: Pásztoegém
Portuguese: Garça-boieira, Garça-vaqueira
Romansh: Irun bultg
CITES Status Appendix III (Danemark)
CMS Status Not listed in CMS Included in AEWA



Photo Copyright by
Su Neko



Range Native to parts of Africa, Asia and Europa, but has spread in recent years to North- and South America, and Australia.
Habitat Found in many habitat types (fields, marshes, freshwater wetlands, pastures, livestock pens, swamps), often near farmland and cattle. It is less dependent on aquatic habitats than other egrets.
Wild population Common and widespread (Red List IUCN 2011).
Zoo population 1045 reported to ISIS (2007)

In the Zoo

Cattle egret


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 17 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Su Neko

Why do zoos keep this animal

Within their natural range, there is not really a need for keeping cattle egrets in aviaries or under flight restraing conditions because the species will readily chose the safe haven of zoological gardens as their habitat and often will establish large breeding colonies.

Outside the species' range, cattle egrets are kept primarily for educational purposes, ideally in mixed exhibits with larger mammals, from capybara to elephants.