Most species of Egret are white, with a fairly similar appearance: long and curved neck, long beak, long slender legs, often appearing in fields, shallow water with many reeds, along lakes. pond or mangrove…
In the present south of Vietnam, we don’t have to go far from Ho Chi Minh City, we can still take a short birding trip in 1 day and see 6 species of Egret, which is interesting. The problem here, how to distinguish them in practice with binoculars, or through the images that you have taken?
With the Egret species, we will not easily to recognize them. Vietnambirds.net would like to send to Bird watching enthusiasts a short article in which we will have tips to distinguish and correctly identify birds in the Egret group.
How to ID for Cattle Egret?
- The Cattle Egret is a gregarious, white, easily recognized by its foraging association with grazing animals and its exaggerated, head-pumping strut. Its prediliction for grasslands, lawns, pastures, and grazing animals is quite unlike other herons and egrets which generally feed in or along water and not in close association with livestock. In Vietnam, the Cattle Egret is also known as the “flies egret” in reference to the prey of its mostly are flies, but in many languages it is simply called Cow Heron, or Cow Bird, or is named for the wild grazing animal with which it usually associates.
- In the breeding season: for a brief period during peak of breeding cycle, feather in crown, nape and back are yellow-brown color.
How to ID Great Egret and Intermediate Egret?
- Great Egret : Large, all-white ; 80–104 cm in total length (twice as large as Little Egret) with long, black legs and feet, long neck, and long, all-yellow bill. Characteristic S shape to long neck. Chin feather extent to lower mandible, a half of length from tip bill to eye.
- Intermediate Egret compare with Little Egret : is larger, with an all-yellow or yellow-orange bill (pink-red at start of breeding), yellow lores (bright green in courtship ), horn-coloured eyes (red during courtship) and dark brown to black lower legs and feet.
- Intermediate Egret is distinguished from Chinese Egret by being slightly larger, taller and more graceful appearance, habitat choice, different bare-parts colorations : all black leg compare pale yellow leg of Chinese; bright yellow bill with a bit dark tip.
How to identify for Chinese Egret, Little Egret, Pacific Reef-egret?
1. Follow to the Habitat:
- Chinese Egret: Mainly coastal, in estuaries and bays, feeding in shallow water along margins of mangroves or on intertidal mudflats; more rarely rocky coasts, rice fields, marshes, coastal freshwater lagoons, salt pans and rivers.
- Pacific Reef-egret: Typically coastal, especially rocky shores, coral reefs and offshore islands; also estuaries, mangroves, mudflats and sometimes sandy beaches; sometimes fields, freshwater marshes, rice fields and garbage dumps.
- Little Egret: Wide variety, frequenting all kinds of open wetlands, both ephemeral and permanent, with shallow fresh, brackish or salt water (10–15 cm deep), including margins of rivers and lakes, marshes , floodplains, rice fields, irrigated areas, fish ponds, salt pans, sandy beaches, mudflats, coral reefs and mangroves; occasionally in dry fields, even following cattle and other ungulates. Will switch habitats according to season.
2. Body shape (Overall structure):
- Chinese Egret vs Little Egret : compared with Little Egret is usually larger (though sometimes smaller and slimmer) and heavier- and more symetrically-billed (dagger-shaped) with a proportionately thicker and shorter S-shaped neck, shorter and marginally thicker legs.
- Pacific Reef-egret vs Chinese egret : has heavier bill, shorter legs, shorter and denser crest, shorter back plumes (not reaching tail). They are noticeably shorter than those of Chinese Egrets, especially the tibia. The legs also appear thicker than Chinese, especially the tibio-tarsal joint.
- Little Egret: legs longer, bill thinner than Pacific Reef-egret
3. Bill shape and color:
- Note: all colors are variable, including leg color, beak color and lores skin, so the color criterion is not a decisive criterion for concluding the species name.
- Little Egret: bill is thinner and more parallel-sided, more pencil-shaped. The base of the lower mandible is frequently pale, but is pinkish or whitish, not strongly yellow. The upper mandible is all dark. The upper line of the loral skin is more or less straight.
- Chinese Egret : dagger-shaped. The lower mandible is yellow from the base more than half bill length, and the base of the cutting edge of the upper mandible is yellow. The upper line of the loral skin kinks downward in front of the eye. This creates a distinctive expression even at a distance.
- Pacific Reef-egret : bill is heavier than and not as sharp as Chinese or Little. It is variable in colour, and can show the same yellow as Chinese. However, the yellow tends to be more ‘smudgy’ than on Chinese.
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