Bubulcus ibis ibis

A Western Cattle Egret has been hanging out in Penn South, a co-op complex in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. There are damn few cattle thereabouts, but these birds, who in their original range (Africa, Middle East, Southern Europe) follow migrating ruminants who kick up a storm of bugs, are adaptable enough to get bugs and grubs where they may.Somehow these birds made it to South America in the late 19th century. Then they slowly worked their way north. They were breeding in the U.S. by the 1950s. They’re mostly found in our southern states now.I saw my first at Jamaica Bay, but they’re pretty uncommon in NYC and they are very uncommon in Manhattan.But wait a minute. Haven’t we seen this head somewhere before?Who would have thought that the Dr. Frankenstein who keeps Trump’s Hair alive with a surfeit of drugs would have modeled the color on an immigrant’s coiffure?

7 Responses to “Bubulcus ibis ibis”


  1. 1 elwnyc April 16, 2017 at 9:39 am

    I used to see them regularly by the Cooper River in Camden, NJ in the ’50s and ’60s(my pre-birding days), but then they seem to have disappeared. When I began birding in the ’70s-’80s, there were a few in Cape May in one place on the road to Higbee’s Beach, but even there they seemed to be uncommon. I wonder why they stopped coming.

    • 2 mthew April 16, 2017 at 9:12 pm

      That’s an interesting question. They seem remarkably adaptable. But why retreat once they’ve moved into an area?

  2. 4 Susan April 16, 2017 at 11:28 am

    The people in Penn South must love this bird. Good story and photos Thanks.

  3. 5 Anne April 19, 2017 at 8:52 am

    Your photographs are wonderful to look at. The Cattle Egret is known as Bubulcus ibis in South Africa and look remarkably similar. I wonder what grants yours the extra ibis.

    • 6 mthew April 19, 2017 at 4:44 pm

      It’s the Western Cattle Egret, which I believe would be the same one found in South Africa; the extra ibis separates it from co-specific B. ibis coromandus, the Eastern Cattle Egret; although some have already divided the Eastern into its own species, B. coromandus. Perhaps, too, the New World pioneers have been here long enough to be genetically distinctive from their African ancestors (?).


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