Family Herons (Ardeidae)

Least Concern

Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)


French: Héron garde-boeufs German: Kuhreiher Spanish: Garcilla bueyera

Ardea Ibis


, 1758,



Race coromandus sometimes treated as a full species, with some authors#R mentioning different morphometrics, breeding plumage and calls; another#R, however, indicated no difference in calls and that morphometric data yield only minor differences (effect size for longer tarsus 1.49, score 1; for shorter tail −0.94, score 1) (2), leaving the puffy, bright golden-orange head, neck and breast when breeding vs white on these parts except peachy-buffy crest and central breast plumes (3); thus, a total score of 5 retains this form at present as a well-marked subspecies, although further study may yield other points of divergence. Validity of race seychellarum has been questioned; only one specimen in breeding plumage known from collections. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • B. i. ibis (Linnaeus, 1758) – Western Cattle Egret – SW Europe to Caspian Sea, also Africa and Madagascar and Comoros; naturally expanded range (mainly during 20th century) to North, Central & South America, now breeding from S Canada to Argentina and Chile. Partially migratory in most of range; birds of North America winter S of 32° N.
  • B. i. seychellarum (Salomonsen, 1934) – Seychelles.
  • B. i. coromandus (Boddaert, 1783) – Eastern Cattle Egret – S & E Asia from Pakistan E to Japan; has expanded range to Australia and New Zealand. Partially migratory.
  • Introduced (ibis) to Hawaii.

    Descriptive notes

    46–56 cm; 250–510 g; wingspan 88–96 cm. Fundamentally all-white egret with yellow bare parts. Stubby aspect, promoted by short tibia, and shorter, stouter... read more


    Most common call is a “rick, rack”, with the first syllable louder and higher-pitched, which... read more


    Has benefited enormously from forest clearance, as only limiting factors to this species’... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly insects (e.g. Tabanidae, Calliphoridae, beetles, caterpillars, dragonflies, mayflies, ticks, cicadas), locusts, grasshoppers,... read more


    Year-round in tropics, with different regional peaks (see Family Text); in North America, Apr–May (until Aug in Cuba); in Palearctic... read more


    Extensive post-breeding dispersal. Many populations in tropical parts of South America, Africa and... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Almost certainly the most abundant heron worldwide and habit of nesting close to humans in sometimes huge numbers has brought it into... read more

    Recommended citation

    Martínez-Vilalta, A., Motis, A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 22 January 2020).