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.
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.
Two subspecies of Egretta rufescens are known:
- Egretta rufescens dickeyi (Van Rossem, 1926)
- Egretta rufescens rufescens (Gmelin, 1789)
In the white phase, the adults can be confused with immature whites of the Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea), but they differ because they have the basal half of the bill gray, not pink and the legs slate blue, non-greenish. The immature ones in white phase differ from other white herons by their dark bill and legs.
Two subspecies are recognized, E. r. dickeyi and E. r. rufescens, the latter reprinted for Colombia and characterized by being darker on the head and neck.
It is found in North America, the Antilles and Central America to Colombia and Venezuela.
It inhabits salty waters such as mangroves, lakes, seas and the shores of the oceans.
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.
It feeds mainly on small fish but also on frogs, crustaceans and insects.
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.
His condition is of least concern.
Avibase. 2011. Egretta rufescens. Downloaded from http://avibase.bsc-eoc.org/species.jsp?avibaseid=D8A24A3EDDC19AA4 on 8/03/2011
Del-Hoyo, J., Elliot, A. and Sardatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the Wold. Vol 1. Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx editions. Barcelona. 669p.
Hilty, S. L. and W. L. Brown. 2001. Guide to the Birds of Colombia. Princetn. Univ. Press, Princeton, NJ. 1030p.
IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 08 March 2011.
Jobling, C. 2010. The Helm dictionary of scientific birds names. Christopher Helm and A & C Black Publishers Ltda. London. 433p.