Birds and cows, an unlikely alliance

cow and cattle egret

There’s about a 1,299 pound difference between the average cow and the average cattle egret, but that staggering difference does not seem to dampen their symbiotic relationship. The preferred cattle egret diet leans toward obnoxious invertebrates who prefer cows as a big part of their diet.

Just for grins, let’s say that the average beef cow weighs in at 1,300 pounds. With the same smirk, let’s say that a medium sized cattle egret hits the scales at around a pound. Despite that substantial difference, the two critters make pretty good partners since the bugs which cows attract make what most egrets agree to be a tasty treat.

two cows at a fence

Click the pic to see the curious cows at Corndancer

Speaking of cows, we suggest that you take a look at the Photo of the Week Page at Corndancer dot-com where we observe cows in their curious mode. We’ve noticed this phenomenon on more than one occasion and provide pictorial documentation of the behavior and make patently unscientific observations. Back to the cattle egrets. Turns out these birds are not native to the North American continent. They are natives of Africa who made their way to South America in the late 19th century and arrived in the lower 48 in the early forties. They began nesting and breeding in the USA in the early fifties. Apparently the American romantic environment was conducive to making more little egrets since they have spread exponentially. In this case, not a bad thing.

cow and egret

This egret is sizing up a bug bugging the cow. The cow apparently considers this to be a routine and beneficial occurrence.

Cattle herds are egrets favorite partners. They pick ticks and other untoward and unwelcome guests from the cattle and glom down the insects that get stirred up as cattle stomp around the pasture.

cattle egret and cow

The new egret probably hopes where there’s one bug, there’s two. With this big ol’ cow I’m betting there’s plenty to go around.

The cow and egret are eyeballing each other. Perhaps this is the egret's favorite cow – or vice versa.

The cow and egret are eyeballing each other. Perhaps this is the egret’s favorite cow – or vice versa.

Cow closeup grazing

There’s no bird with this one but is is a good up close and personal cow munch-out portrait.

cattle egret and cow

You can run, but you can’t hide.

Cattle and cattle egrets are living proof that critters as different as daylight and dark can get along very nicely by concentrating on the mutually beneficial aspects of their relationships. Perhaps we should take us a few busloads of politicians, opposing extremists, and sign-carrying stooges out to few cattle pastures to observe this behavior and see if they get any good ideas. We can dream.

Thanks for looking,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

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