National Geographic : 1954 Aug
282 © G. K. Yeates Harassed Egrets, Reduced to a Solitary Egg, Stand Double Guard Against Raiders The cattle egret, Bubulcus ibis, flocks in great numbers in Asia and Africa, and in southern Spain. A member of the heron clan, it usually nests in trees. These parents are trying to raise a family in a marsh nest near Vejer de la Frontera, Spain, where egg-robbing farmers sometimes leave not even one egg out of a clutch of four or five. At the time the cattle egrets made their dramatic appearance in the United States, the author was studying the species in Spain. He reports: "The cattle egrets, standing on twiggy nests in which they were just beginning to lay pale greenish-blue eggs, were still at the peak of nuptial beauty. At the mating season these birds are not snow white like other egrets; they develop toast-colored plumes on backs, breasts, and crowns. Bills are suffused with red, and legs and eyes become a garish puce pink. "Later in the season the red flush leaves the yellow bill and the pink fades from the legs; then the egrets lose their buffish plumes and become quite white. However, the yellow bill, together with the birds' comparatively small size, is quite enough for identification."