Egrets? We've had a few

Rapidly spreading bird breeds in UK for first time as temperatures rise to warmer temperatures

A A A

Britain has a new species of breeding bird, it was announced yesterday – the cattle egret, a white heron which has spread out from Africa across the globe.

Warmer temperatures are thought to have encouraged the bird to expand its range northwards through Europe, and it has been seen in Britain in recent years.

Now, a pair of the birds, resplendent in the bright orange-buff plumes on the head and breast that signify they are breeding, have successfully raised at least one chick in a tree nest in an undisclosed location in Somerset, and it is thought that more will follow in coming years.

It is closely following the spread to Britain of a related species, the little egret, another white heron that began wintering in numbers here in the 1990s, and first bred on Brownsea Island in Poole, Dorset, in 1996.

Subsequently little egrets, which have a black bill as opposed to the cattle egret's yellow bill, virtually doubled their breeding numbers every year and there are now hundreds of pairs nesting across Britain.

Although the spread of the cattle egret is a fairly close parallel, it is an even more exotic species, as it is thought of primarily as African. "This is the bird that you see perched on the back of buffaloes and other big game in Africa, because that's where it evolved," said Stephen Moss of the Somerset Ornithology Society.

"But in the past 100 years or so, it has adapted to live alongside humans and live alongside cattle, and it forages among their feet to pick up worms and insects and other things to eat."

Although cattle egrets had been seen in the winter in twos or threes for some time, last winter there was "a big influx", with dozens of the birds in Cornwall and Devon, and half a dozen in Somerset, Mr Moss said. Somerset birdwatchers then noticed that two pairs did not go back to Europe when spring came but remained, and were seen in breeding plumage.

Although no one has yet seen the nest, which is in dense foliage, at least one chick has been seen. Mr Moss said: "The good news is that that chick has fledged and left the nest successfully, so that is the first baby cattle egret ever to be born and raised in Britain".

According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, other new species may follow the cattle egret to Britain as the climate warms. "Potential species include the cattle egret's larger cousins, the great white egret and purple heron, which are both nesting in Holland," said the RSPB's Graham Madge.

Suggested Topics
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy as ECB finally wield the axe
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas