Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER

Reddish Egret, Egretta rufescens, feeding on shrimp

from the November 16, 2014 Newsletter issued from Río Lagartos, on the north-central coast of Yucatán, MÉXICO
REDDISH EGRET WITH A SHRIMP

Above you see a Reddish Egret dangling a wild shrimp by its antenna. The egret is stepping lively because nearby gulls and herons tended to mob any bird who caught a meal and didn't immediately swallow it or show signs of defending the meal with vigor.


from the January 19, 2009 Newsletter issued from near Telchac Pueblo on the north-central coast of Yucatán, MÉXICO
GRACEFULLY BELLIGERANT REDDISH EGRETS

I arrived at the lagoon late in the day, my feet blistered from having hiked several miles from the nearest bus stop. Light was failing as I pegged my tent next to the water's edge and I heard what sounded like two dry sticks being hit together. It was two herons doing combat about 50 meters away, shown below:

Reddish Egrets, Egretta rufescens

In dusk's dim light they appeared as silhouettes against the silvery water and their maneuvers were so fast and fluid that I couldn't keep track of which bird was doing what. The bill-clapping sounded serious but I'm not sure either bird ever got pecked. The way they dove and feinted, jumped and whirled about, they were like fantastical Japanese martial arts masters you see in movies sometimes on long distance Mexican buses, dancing as much as fighting, leaping impossibly high, counterattacking impossibly elegantly, but these birds were the real thing, creating some kind of perfection out there in the lagoon.

And then a certain threshold was passed and the birds lighted together at the water's edge. They seemed to pose for the picture I snapped, which you can see below:

Reddish Egrets, Egretta rufescens

In that picture the vertical "sticks" behind the birds are air-absorbing pneumatophores of nearby, root- submerged Black Mangroves, Avicennia nitida. In the growing darkness I had to overexpose the picture to bring out the birds' reddish heads and neck feathers, which distinguish them from Little Blue Herons.

Reddish Egrets, Egretta rufescens, occur on the US Gulf Coast, mainly southern Florida and Texas, and extend as far south as Venezuela.