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Egrets in California

H. C. Bryant
5 (September-October)
From Field and Study
Online Text:

Egrets in California

As the total extinction of the Egret (Herodias egretta) and the Snowy Egret (Egretta candidissima candidissima) has been prophesied, the followmg records should be of interest. A trip into the marsh lands southeast of Los Banos, Merced County, California, on July 11, 1912, revealed the fact that these two birds still exist in small numbers in this state.

A flock of seventeen egrets was first noted. The birds were first seen quietly standing about in an open marshy field. On nearer approach they took flight and were seen to settle down in a field some distance away. Later, a lone Snowy Egret was seen wading about in water about a foot deep. Still later in the day, three Egrets and two Snowy Egrets were seen feeding together. The aigrettes, the valuable feathers which caused the near extinction of these birds, could be seen. In no case would the large egrets permit one to approach nearer than a quarter of a mile. The lone Snowy Egret was approached within a distance of a hundred and fifty yards.

The Fulvous Tree-duck (Dendrocygna bicolor) was the bird most abundant in the locality. Other water and shore birds noted were: Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps), Forster Tern (Sterna forsteri), Black Tern (Hydrochelidon nigra surinamensis), Ruddy Duck (Erismatura jamaicensis), Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus), Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis), Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias herodias), Anthony Green Heron (Butorides virescens anthonyi), Florida Gallinule (Gallinula galeata), Coot (Fulica americana), Avocet (Recurvirostra americana), Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus), and Killdeer (Oxyechus vociferus).

A Great Blue Heron picked up beneath the wires of an electric power line, where it had evidently accidentally killed itself, furnished abundant evidence as to the economic value of this bird. The stomach of this particular individual contained two large gophers (Thomomys angularis), still undigested. Considering the time of digestion one would naturally infer from this, that these birds must need a minimum daily food supply of an equivalent of two gophers. A complete knowledge as to the average number of gophers taken by one of these birds in a day would furnish interesting evidence as to their money value to the rancher. The patience displayed by one of these birds as it watches a gopher hole in an alfalfa field, and the cleverness shown in catching the rodent when it puts in an appearance, have become topics of conversation by many observing ranchers of the state.


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