If you gave me a pair of binoculars and said go watch a bird for a day, I know which one I’d pick immediately. The reddish egret. Not the prettiest like some North American warblers or tropical trogons, not majestic like an eagle, not an Olympian flyer like a Peregrine, or a long distance migratory marathoner like an Arctic Tern. In fact they are hard to find as recent estimates put them at only 2000 pairs in North America, still trying to recover from near extinction during the feather hunting era in the early 1900’s. But for sheer fun to watch, the foraging antics of the reddish egret has to bring a smile to your face and you can’t help but wonder what he/she will do next.
Reddish egrets will stand like other egrets as above, but that’s not when they are actually hunting. That’s most often a rest break. Although all egrets will involve some action (running, flapping wings, jumping etc) to try and entice fish to move so they can see them and grab them, no other egret puts the work into it that a reddish egret. They jump, fly circles, spin 360’s, fly 20 feet then fly or run back, flap wings, twirl 180 to 360 degrees and this can last 20 to 30 seconds before the bird catches a fish, or until the bird just decides to stand stationary again until the next round. I could try and describe it but the short video I posted here will do a better job.
If you are looking for one in the US, the Florida or Texas coast would be your best bet (Click here is you want to see their range map http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/reddish_egret/id). The AZ bird breeding bird atlas lists them as rare. There is a population just over our border in California in the Salton Sea so that’s probably where we get our visitors from. Most of my experience with them was on the Texas coast and that’s where these photos and video come from. There are actually 2 morphs (color phases), the dark you see here and a pure white morph and they are one of 6 species in their family (Ardeidae) to have a white form. The dark form you see here is the most common as only an estimated 6% of the species are white and most of those are in Florida.
So next time you’re out near the sea shore or a salt marsh and you’re lucky enough to see one of these guys, pull up a stump or a piece of beach and watch. It’s more fun with a camera but be sure and take the time to enjoy what you are seeing as well.