cowgirl egret

The Cattle Egret is an invasive exotic species that brings harm and benefits

The Cattle Egret ( Bubulcus ibis ), also known as the Carrapateira Egret, Cattle Egret, Cattle Egret, Tractor, Cunacoi, and Cupara, belongs to the Ardeidae family and originated in Mediterranean Europe and Africa. Experts believe that this bird came to the Americas at the time of the migrations in 1877.

The Cattle Egret reaches about 50 cm in length, with its wingspan ranging from 90 to 96 cm. It weighs around 350g and can live up to 15 years. It has white plumage when young, which serves as a reflector of sunlight, which helps in regulating its body temperature. In the breeding season it has an orange color on the chest, back and top of the head. It lays two eggs per reproductive period, which are incubated for around 25 days. They have a poorly developed uropygian gland, and the dust plumes found on the side of the body and on the chest are responsible for the elasticity and impermeability of their plumage.

A bird that occurs throughout the Brazilian continent, the heron is an insectivorous, but opportunistic bird that hunts its food away from the water. It usually feeds on cattle ticks, but mainly eat grasshoppers, crickets and flies. Because it is opportunistic, it sometimes also feeds on amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, birds and fish .

It is common to find the heron next to the cattle, benefiting from the ticks that come off the animal’s body. This bird also feeds on pasture spittlebugs, insects that, if not fought, drastically reduce grasses, compromising the feeding of cattle. The biologist of the Pernambuco State Environment Agency, Samanta Della Bella, says that 80% of their diet is based on insects , among which pests found in pastures and in the land turned by machines in the cultivation areas.

This species of bird is very welcome in pastures as it cooperates with the health of grasses and cattle . But what is good for some may not be so good for others. In the Fernando de Noronha Archipelago, for example, this species of heron is competing with colonies of red-footed boobies Sula sula ) that nest only in the archipelago. These birds also prey on the mabuia lizard ( Euprepis atlanticus ), the little widow ( Annus minutus ), the benedito ( Annus stolidus ) and the black-mantled tern ( Onychoprion fuscatus ), all endemic to the islands.

According to researchers, the Fernando de Noronha Archipelago is a fragile and delicate ecosystem, which can suffer major impacts with changes in its biota. Due to the accelerated growth of this species in the Archipelago, and the problems it has caused to aviation, in 2007 a program was started to control the population of the Cattle Egret in the Archipelago, aiming to reduce its population by up to 90%.

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