Kingdom: animals (Animalia).
Type: Chordata (Chordata).
Class: birds (Aves).
Order: Ciconiiformes (Ciconiiformes).
Family: heron (Ardeidae).
Genus: Egyptian herons (Bubulcus).
Species: Egyptian heron (Bubulcus ibis).
Where does he live
Egyptian heron is found on all continents except Antarctica. On the territory of Russia runs the northern border of the range of these birds. They nest in the lower Volga and Terek, and on migration are recorded in the south of the Far East. Here, birds prefer inland waters, floodplains and river deltas, small lakes.
A rare species, in Russia passes the northern border of the range.
The length of the wing is 233-253 mm. It lives on reservoirs of the steppe zone.
Spread. In Russia, nests in small numbers in the Volga and Terek deltas. Periodic flights are observed in the southern regions of Primorye and the South Kuril Islands (1 - 4).
Widespread species: inhabits the countries of north-eastern, tropical and subtropical Africa, Asia Minor, Front and Southeast Asia, India, Southern Japan, the USA and southern Canada (5, 6). Since the middle of the nineteenth century. Intensive expansion of the range from the tropical and subtropical zones to the north and east is observed.
It nests on lakes, in floodplains and river deltas, where there are thickets of middle-aged branches or poplars entwined with prickly and other vines. Often settles near shallow reservoirs - in groves of broad-leaved species (oak, mulberry, elm). Colonies, from a few pairs to several hundred pairs, are located together with other herons, cormorants and rooks. Sometimes they form independent settlements. Wintering of Egyptian herons nesting in Russia are probably located in Africa and Western Asia.
Number. In the Volga delta nests sporadically. In 1950, 2 nests were found on the Damchiksky section of the Astrakhan reserve, in 1951 - 3. In 1979, 6 nests were recorded on the Trekhizbensky section of the reserve (1, 2). In the Terek delta in 1970, 25 pairs of Egyptian herons nested, in 1973 - 3 pairs (3). The total number in Russia does not exceed 30 breeding pairs.
Limiting factors. Under conditions of existence on the border of the range, the number and distribution of the species are limited by the limited suitable habitats and climatic conditions.
Security measures. Hunting is prohibited. It is advisable to prohibit logging at nesting sites.
Sources of information: 1. Kudryavtsev, Markov, Poyarkov, 1957, 2. Gavrilov (personal communication), 3. Pishvanov, 1975, 4. Vorobiev, 1954, 5. Spangenberg, 1951a, 6. Campbell R. Wayne, Weber Wayne S., 1977. Compiled by V. G. Krivenko.
Egyptian herons differ from their relatives in pure white plumage. Feathers all over the body are long, feathery. Closer to fall, they fall out. The beak of the bird is dark gray, almost black, with a small yellow speck at the base. The legs of an Egyptian heron are black.
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During the mating season, the plumage color of females and males is the same: pure white with a wine tint on the back, head and goiter. The structure of feathers in these zones, studied, elongated. During the period of pair formation, bright yellow rare feathers of a red color may appear on the top and back, legs and beak acquire a bright pink color, and the eyes become saturated yellow.
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As for the size of the bird, it is not much larger than a crow: the body length is 48-53 cm, and the weight is no more than half a kilogram. Despite its small size, the wingspan of a bird can reach 96 cm. The bird behaves very playfully: it does not wait for prey, but actively hunts. The place of food is not always on the water, often the Egyptian heron is looking for food in the fields and in bushes.
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The voice of an Egyptian heron differs from other, larger species: the crackling sounds of this species are higher, jerky and sharp.
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Egyptian heron is found on all continents. Most representatives in the following areas:
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- The Iberian Peninsula,
- Madagascar island
- northern parts of Iran,
- Asian countries
- coast of the Caspian.
Egyptian herons most often build their nests on the banks of large and medium rivers and other bodies of water, in marshy areas of forests, in rice fields, and near reservoirs. The female lays eggs at high altitude - at least 8-10 meters. In winter, birds fly to Africa.
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Egyptian gulls live in large colonies, which consist of several species. Monovid settlements are quite rare. Individuals behave quite aggressively: they protect their nests during hatching, and also aggressively treat other members of the colony.
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The main component of the diet of the Egyptian heron is small insects, which it often catches on the back of cattle and horses. Most often, a heron hunts for grasshoppers, dragonflies, locusts, water bugs and larvae. If there is no such “food”, the Egyptian heron will not refuse spiders, cubs, scolopendra and other mollusks. On water, the bird produces food much less often, since it feels more comfortable in the air, and not in a pond. Frogs are also suitable as food.
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There are several distinctive features of the Egyptian heron, which are of interest not only to researchers, but also to lovers of birds:
- An Egyptian heron can stand on one leg for several hours.
- The bird uses one leg for support to warm the other.
- The Egyptian heron actively hunts both in the daytime and at night.
- During the mating season, an Egyptian heron male can dance and “sing” to attract the female.
- If the female Egyptian heron is the first to take the initiative, the male can beat her and drive her out of the pack.
The Egyptian heron is one of the smallest representatives of its family. Its maximum length reaches 53 cm, wingspan - 96 cm, the length of one wing - 25 cm, and the weight of the bird - 400 g. The main color of this heron is white, only on the head and neck there are jewelry made of ocher-yellow feathers. This outfit becomes even more festive during the mating season. A beautiful crest of elongated orange-golden feathers appears on the bird’s head. Separate strongly fluffy bright feathers appear on the back.
Egyptian herons settle along with other ankle birds in mixed colonies. Unlike other herons, this small, sophisticated bird is much less attached to water. She feels free in the fields, and in the meadows, and in the rice fields, and even in cities, though most often in Africa. A lot of these birds can be found in Cairo.
When it comes to nesting, the female becomes the main "foreman". It is she who organizes the construction of the nest, and the male supplies her with all the necessary material for this. In clutch there are from one to six eggs, which parents incubate alternately. Egyptian heron chicks were lucky with their parents, their lives will be protected at all costs, so the mortality of babies is very low. In the southernmost areas of their range, Egyptian herons manage to breed up to three broods per year, in Russia, as a rule, one. These birds begin breeding at the age of about two years.
Egyptian herons prefer insects in their food, but they will not refuse frogs, lizards, small rodents and even chicks of other small birds. The average life span of these birds is 15 years.
The Egyptian heron (lat. Bubulcus ibis) belongs to the family Heron (Ardeidae) from the order Ciconiiformes. During the 19th-20th centuries, it spread over all continents except Antarctica and is recognized as an invasive species in many countries. Lovers of ornithology contributed to its resettlement. Birds often escaped from private collections, acclimatized to a new place, and successfully bred.
Global warming and the innate passion of many populations for migrations in search of better living conditions also played a role in expansion.
To date, the number of species is estimated at 4-7 million individuals, and the area occupied by it exceeds 10 million individuals.
The ancestral homeland of the Egyptian heron are considered the central regions of Africa, located south of the Sahara desert. From the African savannah, she, along with cattle, gradually moved to the northwest and northeast of the continent, and from there to the islands of the Indian Ocean, to Southern Europe and Southeast Asia.
The first reports of her stay in Latin America date back to 1877. Half a century later, it has already occupied territories from Guyana to Canada. In the 50s of the last century, the bird was already seen on many islands of the Caribbean Sea and in Australia. In Europe, birds mainly inhabit the Iberian Peninsula. In recent years, they began to migrate from Spain and Portugal inland, reaching Germany and Switzerland.
In Ukraine, Egyptian herons are migrants and are occasionally observed in the south of the country in the lower reaches of the Dnieper. In Russia, they nest in small numbers in the lower Volga and Terek.
In the temperate zone, birds make seasonal migrations for wintering. In the subtropics, their nomads are associated with precipitation. A number of populations sometimes use trade winds for transatlantic flights in both directions.
Despite living in various biotopes around the globe, taxonomists currently distinguish only two subspecies. The nominative subspecies is widespread in Africa, the Mediterranean, Asia Minor and the Middle East up to the Caspian Sea. He was brought to the New World. Subspecies B.i. coromandus lives in South and East Asia, Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, Indonesia and the Pacific islands adjacent to them.
Unlike many other related species, the Egyptian heron is not attached to water bodies. It feeds not on fish, but mainly on insects, which it finds in fields and meadows. Birds often follow herds of ungulates, saving them from annoying flies and parasitiform ticks from the order Ixodida. They often sit on their backs and hatch parasites directly from their skin. Birds find food on dry and humid areas, including wetlands. They are active during the day, but if necessary, can fish at dusk in the late evening.
Herons are sent for feeding in small groups, which significantly increases the efficiency of hunting.
Being social birds, they nest in colonies. Often they have to share nests with bald ibis (Geronticus calvus), white (Ardea alba), gray (Ardea cinerea) and black herons (Egretta ardesiaca).
Horse-flies (Tabanidae), flies (Diptera), mosquitoes (Culicidae), grasshoppers (Tettigonioidae), spiders (Araneae), tailless amphibians (Anura), small reptiles and mammals predominate in the diet. In winter, the number of worms eaten increases on the menu. In South America, Egyptian herons have been repeatedly seen catching toads (Rhinella marina).
Puberty occurs at the age of 2 years. Mature birds form seasonal monogamous pairs, occasionally the male is united by family ties with two females. The mating season begins in early spring. Breeding of chicks in the northern hemisphere lasts from April to June.
Nests are located on tall trees and shrubs near rivers and lakes or in thickets of reeds.
They are built from brushwood and any available fragments of plants. The construction material is delivered by the male, and his spouse is engaged in the construction of the nest. It takes her 6-7 days to do this. In the northern hemisphere, eggs are laid in April. In clutch there are 4-5 white eggs with a bluish tint. The female lays them with an interval of 2 days. Both spouses incubate masonry alternately. Incubation lasts from 22 to 26 days.
Chicks hatch asynchronously. For a week and a half, the mother warms the babies with the warmth of her body and only then leaves them alone. At the age of 3 weeks, they leave the nest, and become winged at 25-35 days old. In the tropics and subtropics, the female is able to bring offspring 2-3 times a year.
The body length of adults is 48-52 cm with a wingspan of 90-100 cm. Weight 300-400 g. White plumage. At the beginning of the mating season, pinkish, golden or brownish spots appear on the head, chest and back. The yellow-green area around the eyes changes to blue, and the beak becomes reddish.
The lower limbs are light brown. The length of the beak is about 6 cm. Out of the breeding season, it is painted in a yellowish or brownish color. Pronounced sexual dimorphism is not observed. Males are a bit slimmer and more females.
Egyptian heron in natural conditions lives 10-15 years. In captivity, she lives up to 20 years.
In the Red Book of Russia
The Egyptian heron is the only representative of its kind. This is a rare species on the periphery of the range. Although, for example, in Africa, the Egyptian heron is found everywhere and its numbers are not in danger. This is not surprising, because exactly there is her homeland.
The entire existence of the Egyptian heron is closely related to the life of ungulates. Not without reason, after all, its other name is cow heron, which in the English version sounds like cattle egret. In the territory of their entire range, these birds often keep close to ungulates, whether they are cows, buffalos, bison, zebras and even rhinos. Herons collect insects and ticks from the backs of their herbivorous companions. They also feed on insects disturbed by large animals in the grass. If danger is approaching, the herons are the first to give an alarm, including the ungulates themselves.
In ancient Egypt, the phoenix was often depicted as a heron.
The Egyptian heron feeds mainly on insects; it also eats small fish, amphibians, reptiles, some rodents and chicks, and other birds. Eating insects, the Egyptian heron often keeps close to cattle or wild herbivorous mammals. Herons feed near these animals, pecking the hooves of herbivorous insects, frightened off in the thick grass, primarily locusts.