Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Little Egret

We had an unusual visitor outside our window this morning.
After looking up Salim Ali’s The Book of Indian Birds, we decided that it was an Indian Reef Heron (Egretta gularis) or Little Egret.

According to Salim Ali:
Field Characters: the Little Egret has two colour phases: (1) pure white, (2) bluish slaty with a white patch on throat; some examples parti-coloured. A backwardly drooping crest of two narrow plumes is acquired in the breeding season. White phase difficult to differentiate from the Small Egret, but its seashore habitat is suggestive.
Sexes alike. Singly, on rocky seashore, mangrove swamps, etc.

Distribution: The coast of western India; Pakistan; Ceylon.
Habits: Not appreciably different from other egrets and herons, except that it is essentially a bird of the seacoast, seldom found far inland above tidal influence. Food: Mainly crustaceans, mollusks and fish, especially the mud-crawler (Periophthalmus).
Our friend was probably looking for a free meal from our beautiful pond.

Salim Ali says: “Wades into the shallow surf or in a rock pool left by the receding tide, crouching forward on flexed legs, ‘freezing’ with poised neck and bill and jabbing at quarry blundering within range. Nesting: Season – March to July, varying with locality. Nest – a twig platform like that of other egrets, commonly built in colonies on mangrove trees in a tidal swamp, or in a large peepul or jambul, often in association with other egrets, paddy birds, etc. Eggs, 3 or 4, pale sea-green or blue-green, un-marked.”

We hope he will continue to visit us.

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