Originally from Africa, the cattle egret came to North America in the 1940s. Now, they are found everywhere, including Alaska. In Florida, nesting locations are seen in most areas ranging from the panhandle to the keys. It is interesting to me that the landlubber cattle egret often chooses to nest on coastal islands along with wader birds that consume marine food. The cattle egret does not fish and rarely wades in water; rather it lives primarily on insects (lots of grasshoppers). Contrary to this, I have seen cattle egrets while paddling in the salty waters of the Everglades. Recently, there were two of them hanging out with terns and other shorebirds on Little Pavilion Key, a small spit of sand in the Ten Thousand Islands region. I've also have seen a few at the brown pelican rookery I frequent, also in the Ten Thousand Islands.
My affection for the cattle egret (species identified as bubulcus ibis) began four years ago when I unexpectedly found a cattle egret rookery on Biscayne Bay. Since then, I have observed and photographed the birds of this rookery while learning many things about them. I've observed the bird's work ethic as it maintains a healthy nest and raises 3 to 4 chicks and does so in a very short period of time. Incubation takes only about 3 weeks, chicks grow rapidly and within a week or two, can regulate their own temperature and are fully feathered by 3 weeks following hatching. They begin climbing out of the nest at about 2 weeks of age and are fully independent at 6-7 weeks. The cattle egret nests along side the cormorant, which also grow quickly, but appears to rely on mom and dad for a longer period of time, compared to the cattle egret.
On this memorial weekend holiday, I arrive at the rookery early in the morning with a high tide. Given the location, I would need to use my anchor with water as deep as 10 feet. I was fairly well protected from the wind, but had an outgoing current. Once I anchored correctly, my boat was quite steady and I was able to stay in one or two spots during the couple hours I spent here.