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Reddish Egret
Egretta rufescens

Pelecaniformes Order – Ardeidae Family

Length: 70-80 cm
Wingspan: 115 cm
Weight: 700-850 g

LONGEVITY: Up to 12 years

Reddish Egret has two morphs, dark morph and white form.

Reddish Egret populations are threatened by destruction and habitat loss in coastal habitat, with residential and commercial development. These disturbances change the high salinity of coastal waters that this species prefers, reducing their food resources.
They were hunted for feathers in the last centuries, but now they are protected and populations are increasing slowly.     

Fr: Aigrette roussâtre
All : Rötelreiher
Esp : Garceta Rojiza
Ital: Garzetta rugginosa
Nd: Roodhalsreiger
Russe: Красная цапля
Sd: Rosthäger


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FIELD GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA - National Geographic Society - ISBN: 0792274512

A GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF MEXICO AND NORTHERN CENTRAL AMERICA by  Steve N. G. Howell, Sophie Webb - Oxford University Press - ISBN: 0198540124

A GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF COLOMBIA by Steven L. Hilty and William L. Brown - Princeton University Press – ISBN 069108372X

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Summary Cards


Adult in dark morph has slate blue plumage, with reddish-beige head, neck and breast, with shaggy feathers. Underwings coverts are paler than upperparts.

Bill is long, pink at base and black on tip. Lores are bluish. Legs and feet are dark blackish blue. Eyes are pale yellow.

Adult in white morph has entirely white plumage. Bill and legs are similar in both forms.

Both sexes are alike.
Immature in both morphs has black bill and pale lower breast and belly.

Chicks of white morph have white down.
Chicks of dark morph have grey down, with greyish-cinnamon head and neck.
Non breeding bird is duller with shorter feathers. 
The two phases mate together, giving partly coloured birds.

They represent two species, white morph being named Ardea pealii – Peale’s Egret. It differs from other egret’s species by the size and the bare parts’ colours.

We find two subspecies:
E.r. rufescens, from southern US and eastern Mexico, West Indies, and to northern Colombia and Venezuela.
E.r. dickeyi from Western Mexico.

Reddish Egret’s call is a usual “krraaah”. It utters squawks and croaks. It is more vocal during breeding season, mates exchanging soft “crog-crog” calls.

Reddish Egret lives in coastal waters, lagoons, salt marshes, coastal tidal flats, mangroves, salt and brackish waters.

Reddish Egret lives in coasts of southern United States, Mexico, Bahamas, and Caribbean, northern Central America to Salvador, and northern South America, Colombia and Venezuela. Most part of populations breeds in northern parts of the range, and migrates southwards to winter. It is locally resident in extreme south Florida and along coasts of Texas and Louisiana, Mexico and West Indies.

Reddish Egret walks slowly in shallow waters, searching for preys. When it finds a small group of fishes, it chases them, flapping wings while it is running from side to side, trying to capture them.

Sometimes it holds the wings as an umbrella, to attract some fish under this shadow and catch it.

Reddish Egret is a very active bird, more at dawn and dusk.

It dashes, almost runs back and forth with extended wings.
In deeper waters, it may use aerial methods.

Feeding territories are well defended.

During courtship display, the bare part colours become brighter, and mainly the lores which turn to violet. Reddish Egret erects the shaggy feathers on its head, neck and back. They perform some aerial combats. Birds are graceful and elegant when males pursue each other in front of the female, passing through the air, turning and cutting about in curves and zigzags with erected crest, and uttering calls.
Male may also chase another rival on the ground, as well in the air. Then, the male returns to female, with erected crest and feathers, fluffed neck, crossing repeatedly in front of her, while uttering deep rough sounds.  

Reddish Egret has light flight, easy strong and sometimes fast. Its flight is more high and regular than that of smaller species. When they are travelling towards feeding grounds, they fly by easy, steady and regular wing beats, neck reposing on shoulders, legs stretched out behind, and with beautiful feathers floating.   

Breeding season varies according to the range.
Reddish Egret nests in large mixed colonies. Both adults build the nest. It is a platform from 3 to 20 feet (one to six metres) above water, in mangrove areas.
Birds living in Texas build the nest on the ground, in islands. Nest is woven with sticks, twigs and fine materials. Dry sticks are interspersed with grass and leaves.

Female lays 3 to 4 bluish green eggs. Incubation lasts about 26 days by both parents. Chicks are fed by both adults, first by regurgitation, and when they are one month old, they are fed less often, and the fish is dropt close to them, or into their open throats.
They leave the colony at about 9 weeks, but they are able to fly at 45 days old. They reach their sexual maturity at 3 to 4 years.

This species produces only one clutch per season.

Two dark phase birds may have white morph chicks, but two white morph birds can never have dark phase chicks.

A mixed pair has almost always dark morph chicks.

Reddish Egret feeds on fish, crustaceans, frogs and insects.