Egretta rufescens (Gmelin, 1789)
Garceta rojiza (Castilian), Reddish egret
The Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens) is a long-legged, long-necked heron closely tied to coastal regions. It ranges from the southern U.S. and Mexico south through the West Indies to Northern Columbia and Northern Venezuela. It is rarely found far from the coast, where it feeds mainly on fish. (Martinez-Vilalta and Motis 1992; Kaufman 1996) Both dark and white morphs occur, with the white morph being far more common in the Bahamas and Greater Antilles than it is in the United States. (Lowther and Paul 2002)
Conservation and Management
As a result of plume-hunting, the Reddish Egret was eliminated from Florida by the early 20th century. Further declines occurred in Texas during the 1960s, with the population dropping to an estimated 552 pairs by 1965 from 3200 pairs in 1939. Estimates from the 1970s indicated around 1400 to 1600 pairs in the U.S., 150 pairs in Louisiana, and 275 pairs in recolonized Florida. The Reddish Egret is uncommon in Mexico, except in northwestern Baja California. In Belize, several very small colonies are reported. Prior to the decimation by plume hunters, the white morph was apparently relatively more common than it is today. By the mid-1990s the total U.S. population had reached about 2000 pairs. (Martinez-Vilalta and Motis 1992 and references therein; Kaufman 1996)
One hunting strategy used by the Reddish Egret is to stand motionless with partly spread wings, creating a shaded area that may attract schools of unwitting small fish in search of shelter (Kaufman 1996).
The Reddish Egret is typically found in shallow coastal waters, in salt marshes, along shores, and in lagoons. Individuals are rarely found far from the coast and when they are these are almost always juveniles. Breeding occurs on islands (in low shrubs, cactus, or on the ground) or in mangroves (typically at least 5 meters up in trees). (Martinez-Vilalta and Motis 1992 and references therein; Kaufman 1996)
The Reddish Egret is found from the southern U.S.A. (with breeding limited almost entirely limited to the Gulf States) and Mexico south through the West Indies to Northern Colombia and Northern Venezuela (Martinez-Vilalta and Motis 1992).
The Reddish Egret feeds mainly on small fish, but also on frogs, tadpoles, and crustaceans. It is among the most active herons when feeding, often chasing prey by walking quickly or running. (Martinez-Vilalta and Motis 1992)
In Florida, the Reddish Egret breeds nearly year-round, with peaks in November to January and February to May. In Texas, the Reddish Egret breeds March to June. In Baja California, it breeds in the summer. Typical clutch size is 3 to 4 eggs (range 2 to 7), with an incubation period (incubation is by both sexes) of 25 to 26 days. Fledging occurs at around 45 days. (Martinez-Vilalta and Motis 1992 and references therein)
Mated pairs may be of the same or different color morphs and broods of young mat be of either or both morphs, but the color morph of an individual is the same throughout its life. Over most of its range, dark birds are far more common. (Kaufman 1996)
Conti et al. (1986) surveyed the parasites of 36 Reddish Egrets from Texas and Florida. They identified twenty-one species of parasites, including one mite, one tick, one hippoboscid fly, three biting lice, two cestode flatworms (tapeworms), five trematode flatworms, seven nematodes (roundworms), and one acanthocephalan. In addition, one bacterial infection (Salmonella typhimurium) and one avian poxvirus infection were found.
Evolution and Systematics
Systematics and Taxonomy
The Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens) has sometimes been placed in its own genus, Dichromanassa. The white morph of the Reddish Egret was at one time treated as a distinct species, Peale's Egret (A. pealii). (Martinez-Vilalta and Motis 1992; AOU 1998)
- Dichromanassa rufescens (Gmelin, 1789) (synonym)