The reddish egret (Egretta rufescens) is a medium-sized heron. It is a resident breeder in Central America, The Bahamas, the Caribbean, the Gulf Coast of the United States, and Mexico. There is post-breeding dispersal to well north of the nesting range. In the past, this bird was a victim of the plume trade.
According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, there are only 1,500 to 2,000 nesting pairs of reddish egrets in the United States — and most of these are in Texas. They are classified as "threatened" in Texas and receive special protection.
This species reaches 68–82 cm (27–32 in) in length, with a 116–125 cm (46–49 in) wingspan. Body mass in this species can range from 364–870 g (0.802–1.918 lb). Among standard linear measurements, the wing chord is 29–34.3 cm (11.4–13.5 in), the tail is 8.8–13 cm (3.5–5.1 in), the bill is 7.3–9.2 cm (2.9–3.6 in) and the tarsus is 11.7–14.7 cm (4.6–5.8 in). It is a medium-sized, long-legged, long-necked heron with a long pointed pinkish bill with a black tip. It is distinctly larger than other co-existing members of the genus Egretta, but smaller than the great blue heron and great egret. The legs and feet are bluish-black. The sexes are similar, but there are two color morphs. The adult dark morph has a slate blue body and reddish head and neck with shaggy plumes. The adult white morph has completely white body plumage. Young birds have a brown body, head, and neck. During mating, the males plumage stands out in a ruff on its head, neck and back.
The reddish egret is considered one of the most active herons, and is often seen on the move. It stalks its prey visually in shallow water far more actively than other herons and egrets, frequently running energetically and using the shadow of its wings to reduce glare on the water once it is in position to spear a fish; the result is a fascinating dance. Due to its bold, rapacious yet graceful feeding behavior, author Pete Dunne nicknamed the reddish egret "the Tyrannosaurus Rex of the Flats". It eats fish, frogs, crustaceans, and insects. The bird's usual cry is a low, guttural croak.
Reddish egrets' breeding habitat is tropical swamps. It nests in colonies, often with other herons, usually on platforms of sticks in trees or shrubs. These colonies are usually located on coastal islands. These birds have raucous courtship displays. They generally involve shaking of the head during the greeting ceremony, followed by chases and circle flights. They also involve raising of the neck, back and crest feathers, accompanied by bill clacking, similar to the tricolored heron.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Egretta rufescens". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- "Reddish Egret". BirdLife Species Factsheets. BirdLife International. Retrieved 2009-07-29.
- "Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens)". Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Retrieved 2009-07-29.
- "Reddish Egret". World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
- "Reddish Egret". All About Birds. Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
- Lowther, Peter E.; Paul, Richard T. (2002). Poole, A., ed. "Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens)". The Birds of North America Online. Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology. doi:10.2173/bna.633.
- Dunne, Pete (2006). Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion: A Comprehensive Resource for Identifying North American Birds. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 0-618-23648-1.
- Field Guide to the Birds of North America (4th ed.). National Geographic. 2002. ISBN 9780792268772.
- Bull, John; Farrand Jr., John (April 1984). The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds, Eastern Region. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-394-41405-5.
- Stokes, Donald W.; Stokes, Lillian Q. (1996). Stokes' Field Guide to Birds: Eastern Region. New York: Little Brown and Company. ISBN 978-0316818094.
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