Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Reddish Egret

The reddish egret breeds in the Gulf Coast states, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico and it can be found further north. In 2009, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. stated that there were only 1,500 to 2,000 pairs of breeding reddish egrets in the United States and that most of those were in Texas where they were classified as "threatened." It is the rarest heron species in the U.S. In Florida, the primary breeding sites are near Tampa Bay and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. It has a long pointed pinkish bill with a black tip. It has a slate blue/gray body with a reddish head and neck with shaggy plumes.  It is known to be much more active in hunting than other egrets and herons. It is found in shallow water, often running, using its wings to create shadows and reduce the glare of the sun on the water so that it can see the fish. Wikipedia notes that because of its style, one author has nicknamed it the "Tyrannosaurus Rex of the Flats."  
Reddish egret at Sanibel Island, Florida.
I did not see any reddish egrets on my Florida visit last year, but saw a number of them this year. The first ones were at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, located on Cape Canaveral, along the Black Point Wildlife Drive. 
Reddish egret at Merritt Island. Note the pinkish bill with black tip.
Reddish egret at Merritt Island.
At the time, I did not realize they were reddish egrets. I made the connection after I'd been to Sanibel Island and the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge (which is south of Tampa Bay). At the Darling Refuge I noted a picture and description of the reddish egret on information boards and then happened upon a whole slew of photographers with big, expensive lenses concentrating on an egret out in the flats. That was the first time I realized I was seeing a reddish egret. Later, in reviewing pictures, I discovered that I'd seen several reddish egrets earlier in the trip at Merritt Island. 
Photographers on Sanibel Island lined up and photographing the reddish egret.
Reddish egret
The reddish egret on Sanibel Island did exhibit some of the active behavior described above, whipping its shaggy plumes about like a long-haired teenage boy at a rock concert. 
This reddish egret begins to display its wild hair plumes.
I'm not even sure what it was doing here. But it looked pretty crazy.
Perhaps using its wings to reduce glare?
This reminds me of Shaun White, the red-haired snow boarder.


  1. Crazy bird--half rock star, have teenager. I love your photo of the photographers.

  2. What a silly bird. It would be fun to sit and watch him for an hour or two.