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Intermediate Egret
Mesophoyx intermedia

Pelecaniformes Order - Ardeidae Family 

Length: 56-72 cm ; Wingspan: 105-15 cm ; Weight: 400 g

Intermediate Egret’s name comes from its size between the Great Egret and the Little Egret or the Cattle Egret.
Adults male and female have white plumage on the entire body and all year round.

In breeding plumage, back shows long filamentous feathers extending beyond the tail, and lower neck and breast are densely feathered too. Long bill is reddish with orange tip, and upper legs are pinkish. Lores are green. 
In non-breeding plumage, Intermediate Egret is white without longer feathers. Bill is yellow as upper legs. Lores are greenish-yellow.
All the year, lower legs and feet are brownish-black, and eyes are pale yellow.

Intermediate Egret differs from Great Egret in size. Intermediate Egret is smaller, with shorter neck. Head is slightly dome-shaped, and bill is shorter and thicker than in Great Egret. Intermediate Egret has bare facial skin ending below the eye, whereas in Great Egret, this skin extends behind the eye.
It differs from Little Egret in feet colour. Intermediate Egret has blackish feet, whereas Little Egret has yellow feet. 
Intermediate Egret resembles Cattle Egret by its short neck, but its lifestyle and its behaviour are very different.

We can find three subspecies:
Egretta intermedia brachyrhyncha, from Africa, south of the Sahara.
Egretta intermedia plumifera, from east Indonesia to New Guinea and Australia.
Both species are similar, but differ from Intermediate Egret in bill and legs colours.
And finally, Egretta intermedia intermedia, from south-eastern Asia and western Indonesia to Japan. This one has black or red bill in breeding plumage.    

Intermediate Egret is a quiet bird. It utters a kind of buzzy call during displays, and a deep “kroa-kr” when it takes flight.

Intermediate Egret can live in varied types of habitats, such as freshwater marshes, pools, rice fields, flooded fields, freshwater areas along rivers, but also brackish and saltwater lakes. This species needs dense emergent aquatic vegetation. It can be seen from sea-level up to 1000 to 1400 metres of elevation.

Intermediate Egret is resident in most parts of Africa, south of the Sahara, and across tropical southern Asia to Australia.

As other Ardeidae, Intermediate Egret feeds in shallow water, often alone but sometimes in groups of 15 to 20 birds. It feeds on small fish, crustaceans and insects. It stalks the prey by walking slowly on mud, water or grass. It often stands motionless at the edge of the water, and when one prey is close enough, it jabs it with its pointed bill and it usually swallows the whole prey.
It breeds in colonies, often with other herons, ibises and spoonbills. Colonies can be very large with several hundreds of nests.

Displays occur at the nest-site where the male has arrived first. Its collects nest materials, while it tries to attract a female, defending the area against other males at the same time.
Male displays its beautiful breeding plumage and its colourful bare parts. Once a female is attracted, behaviour becomes more aggressive with mutual preening and bill clattering. Then, when the pair is formed, both adults build the nest where copulation occurs.
This species is shy, and vulnerable to human disturbances.
Intermediate Egret is usually sedentary, only performing some movements and post-breeding dispersals. The birds living in northern parts of the range may migrate.
They roost in reedbeds and mangroves in mixed flocks. 

Intermediate Egret has slow flight, as other Ardeidae. Flight is strong, but it can be heavy and not so agile. Herons use flapping flight with legs projected behind the body, and head folded back into shoulders. It can perform long distances flights, and sustains strong flight during several hours.  

Breeding season varies, according to the locality.
Intermediate Egret nests in large colonies with other species. Both adults build the platform with sticks and reed stems, giving a loose structure. Nest is usually situated near water, in trees or shrubs, or in reedbeds, usually from 3 to 6 metres above water, sometimes higher, up to 20 metres in trees.
Female lays 2 to 3 eggs, in average 2 to 4 eggs. Incubation lasts about 24 to 27 days, shared by both parents.
Chicks are covered in white down. They are fed by regurgitation by both parents. Young fledge about 35 days after hatching.

Intermediate Egret feeds on small fishes, crustaceans, molluscs, amphibians and insects. It also catches grasshoppers and lizards on the ground, and sometimes young birds and small mammals.
It hunts by walking slowly in shallow water, or standing motionless on the edges, watching for preys.

Intermediate Egret is widespread and relatively common in Africa, and locally common in India. In Japan, this species suffers disturbances at colonies and is threatened by pollution. It is widespread in Australia.
However, Intermediate Egret’s populations are not globally threatened at this moment.      

Fr: Héron intermédiare
All : Mittelreiher
Esp : Garceta Intermedia
Ital : Garzetta intermedia
Nd :  Middelste Zilverreiger
Russe :   Средняя белая цапля
Sd :   Mellanhäger

Photographs by Patrick Ingremeau
His website: TAMANDUA

Text by Nicole Bouglouan


HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD vol 1 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliot-Jordi Sargatal - Lynx Edicions - ISBN: 8487334105

Avibase (Lepage Denis)

Wikipedia (Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia)

BirdLife International (BirdLife International)


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