The influence of foraging benefits on association of cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis) with cattle

Charles F. Thompson, Scott M. Lanyon, Karen M. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The degree of association between cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis) and cattle was studied during one summer on Saint Catherines Island, Georgia, USA. Previous work by Grubb (1976) and others indicated that cattle egrets foraging with cattle require fewer steps and less time to catch prey than egrets foraging without cattle and single egrets catch prey at a higher rate than egrets foraging in groups of two or more with cattle. Accordingly, we predicted that when given a choice egrets should forage with cattle rather than alone, egrets should prefer to associate with standing rather than sitting cattle, and single egrets associated with cattle should be more common than expected by chance. In excess of two-thirds of the egrets accompanied cattle. Neither time of day nor month influenced the degree of association, but egrets in forest were more likely to be associated with cattle than egrets in pasture. Standing cattle were more likely to be accompanied by egrets than were sitting cattle. Single egrets occurred more frequently than expected by chance when accompanying standing cattle but not when associated with sitting cattle. Thus, cattle egrets usually distributed themselves among cattle in the way predicted by optimal foraging theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-170
Number of pages4
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 1982
Externally publishedYes

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