Egretta rufescens - (Gmelin, 1789)
Reddish Egret
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Egretta rufescens (Gmelin, 1789) (TSN 174824)
French Common Names: Aigrette roussātre
Spanish Common Names: Garceta Rojiza
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.101686
Element Code: ABNGA06060
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Birds - Wading Birds
Image 21592

© Dennis Donohue

 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Aves Pelecaniformes Ardeidae Egretta
Genus Size: C - Small genus (6-20 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online: http://www.aou.org/.
Concept Reference Code: B98AOU01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Egretta rufescens
Taxonomic Comments: Often placed in the monotypic genus Dichromanassa (AOU 1983). Some accounts recognize two subspecies, one breeding in the coastal lowlands of western Mexico and the other in the Caribbean and along the northern Gulf of Mexico.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G4
Global Status Last Reviewed: 20Nov1996
Global Status Last Changed: 20Nov1996
Rounded Global Status: G4 - Apparently Secure
Reasons: Relatively rare throughout the range, with a total of several thousand breeding pairs (about half in the U.S.). Both range and abundance have undergone reduction, and population levels have not recovered to former numbers.
Nation: United States
National Status: N4B,N4N (19Mar1997)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (S1B,S3N), Arizona (S1N), California (SNR), Florida (S2), Georgia (S4), Louisiana (S1), Mississippi (S2N), North Carolina (SNA), South Carolina (SNR), Texas (S3B)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: NT - Near threatened

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: BREEDING: Baja California, Sonora, Sinaloa, and Oaxaca; Gulf Coast of Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama; southern Florida, northwestern Bahamas, western Greater Antilles, coast of Yucatan, and Bonaire (Lesser Antilles) (AOU 1983). NON-BREEDING: primarily in coastal areas of breeding range, north regularly (but rarely) to southwestern (casually central coastal) California; along the Gulf coast (from Texas to Florida) and Georgia (casually north to Delaware); and south to Netherlands Antilles and northern South America (coastal Venezuela), east in the Caribbean to Puerto Rico.

Number of Occurrences: 21 to >300
Number of Occurrences Comments: U.S.: in the late 1980s, there were 42 breeding sites in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas (USFWS 1987).

Population Size: 2500 - 100,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: World population in the late 1980s was 3000-5000 breeding pairs, with about 2000 of these in the U.S., and with 3/4 of the U.S. breeding population occurring in Texas (Spendelow and Patton 1988). In the U.S., most abundant in winter along the Texas coast and in southern Florida (Root 1988). Relative abundance (birds per 100 survey hours) on Christmas Bird Count for 1959-1988 was 0.39 in Florida, 3.29 in Texas, and 1.48 survey-wide (Sauer et al. 1996).

Overall Threat Impact Comments: HABITAT LOSS: Primarily threatened by habitat loss due to coastal development, dredging operations, and hydrological alterations (Muehter 1998, Paul 1991, Paul 1996). Nesting areas are being lost to habitat conversion for cattle grazing on some islands and the harvest of mangroves for charcoal. PESTICIDES/POLLUTION: Pesticides have been implicated in a decline of a Texas population during the early 1960s. Eggs collected in the 1970s were 6.3 percent thinner than eggs collected prior to 1943, possibly a result of DDT or PCB contamination. In addition, lead intoxication may have contributed to death of a nestling in Florida (Spalding et al. 1997). HUMAN DISTURBANCE: Nearly extirpated from the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s by the plume trade. Now, disturbance to foraging and nesting birds from increased human recreational activities in coastal habitats is a serious problem. Illegal subsistence hunting threatens some populations. PREDATION: Bald eagles (HALIAEETUS LEUCOCEPHALUS) are known to prey on both juveniles and adults. Black vultures (CORAGYPS ATRATUS) prey upon the eggs and nestlings, laughing gulls (LARUS ATRICILLA) eat the eggs, and fire ants (SOLENOPSIS spp.) eat the young in ground nests (Bent 1926, McMurray 1971). Boat-tailed grackles (CASSIDIX MEXICANUS) will break the eggs, but have not been observed consuming the contents (McMurray 1971). Raccoons (PROCYON LOTOR) are probably the most serious predator of wading bird colonies along the Gulf coast. Potential predators include fish crows (CORVUS OSSIFRAGUS), American crows (C. BRACHYRHYNCHOS), coyotes (CANIS LATRANS), and domestic dogs (Paul 1991, Paul 1996). PARASITES: Known parasites include larval ticks (ORNITHODOROS CAPENSIS) found on nestlings in a ground colony in Texas, and 21 species of ecto- and endoparasites isolated by necropsy and examination of regurgitated food taken from Texas and Florida birds. Birds have also been found with SALMONELLA and avian pox infections (Conti et al. 1986).

Short-term Trend: Decline of 10-30%
Short-term Trend Comments: Christmas Bird Count data for the United States in the 1990s show an increase in the early part of the decade followed by a substantial decline, resulting in little or no change from the beginning of the decade (National Audubon Society 2002).

Long-term Trend: Decline of 10-90%
Long-term Trend Comments: Nearly extirpated throughout range between late 1800's and mid-1930's. Gradual increase following legal protection. Population in Florida Bay, Florida, recovered from total extirpation in 1935 to 200-250 adults in late 1970's. Population changed little by 1980s (Powell et al. 1989). Christmas Bird Count data shows nonsignificant decline survey-wide (-0.2 % annual change; N = 81) for 1959-1988. Significant (p < 0.10) decline in Texas, however, (-2.2 % annual change; N = 26) and significant (p < 0.10) increase in Florida (2.3 % annual change; N = 39) the same period (Sauer et al. 1996).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Inventory Needs: Survey populations to determine abundance and distribution.

Distribution
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Global Range: (20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)) BREEDING: Baja California, Sonora, Sinaloa, and Oaxaca; Gulf Coast of Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama; southern Florida, northwestern Bahamas, western Greater Antilles, coast of Yucatan, and Bonaire (Lesser Antilles) (AOU 1983). NON-BREEDING: primarily in coastal areas of breeding range, north regularly (but rarely) to southwestern (casually central coastal) California; along the Gulf coast (from Texas to Florida) and Georgia (casually north to Delaware); and south to Netherlands Antilles and northern South America (coastal Venezuela), east in the Caribbean to Puerto Rico.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The maps for birds represent the breeding status by state and province. In some jurisdictions, the subnational statuses for common species have not been assessed and the status is shown as not-assessed (SNR). In some jurisdictions, the subnational status refers to the status as a non-breeder; these errors will be corrected in future versions of these maps. A species is not shown in a jurisdiction if it is not known to breed in the jurisdiction or if it occurs only accidentally or casually in the jurisdiction. Thus, the species may occur in a jurisdiction as a seasonal non-breeding resident or as a migratory transient but this will not be indicated on these maps. See other maps on this web site that depict the Western Hemisphere ranges of these species at all seasons of the year.
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, AZ, CA, FL, GA, LA, MS, NC, SC, TX

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe, 2002


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
AL Mobile (01097)
FL Bay (12005), Brevard (12009), Collier (12021), Franklin (12037), Hillsborough (12057), Indian River (12061), Lee (12071), Manatee (12081), Miami-Dade (12086), Monroe (12087), Pasco (12101), Pinellas (12103), Sarasota (12115), Taylor (12123), Volusia (12127)
LA Lafourche (22057), Plaquemines (22075), St. Bernard (22087), Terrebonne (22109)
MS Hancock (28045), Harrison (28047), Jackson (28059)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
03 Cape Canaveral (03080202)+, Vero Beach (03080203)+, Everglades (03090202)+, Florida Bay-Florida Keys (03090203)+, Big Cypress Swamp (03090204)+, Florida Southeast Coast (03090206)+, Sarasota Bay (03100201)+, Tampa Bay (03100206)+, Crystal-Pithlachascotee (03100207)+, Econfina-Steinhatchee (03110102)+, Apalachicola Bay (03130014)+, St. Andrew-St. Joseph Bays (03140101)+, Mississippi Coastal (03170009)+
08 Eastern Louisiana Coastal (08090203)+, West Central Louisiana Coastal (08090302)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A wading bird (egret).
General Description: A long-legged wader with a pink, black-tipped bill, and shaggy plumes on the bright rufous head (breeding adult); legs are cobalt blue; immature birds have a dark bill and are gray overall with some pale cinnamon on the head, neck, and inner wing; rarely the plumage is white; averages 76 cm long, 117 wingspan (NGS 1983).
Diagnostic Characteristics: Differs from other waders in having a pink bill (including white phase individuals), shaggy rufous head and neck plumage, and dark legs (NGS 1983).
Reproduction Comments: Generally nests in mixed colonies with other wading birds, but may nest alone or in small groups apart from other waders (Paul 1996). In Texas, birds typically aggregate into nesting colonies in March and most eggs are laid between mid-March and mid-April (Paul 1991); however, egg laying can begin as late as mid-June, and second clutches may occur as late as mid-July (McMurray 1971, Simersky 1971). In Florida Bay, nesting occurs virtually year-round, although in general, nesting in Florida begins in February. Elsewhere in the Carribean, nesting is generally winter-summer, but can occur year-round (Hancock and Kushlan 1984, Paul 1991).

An egg is laid every other day until the clutch is complete (McMurray 1971). Clutch size is usually three to four eggs, but occasionally five and very rarely six or seven (Bent 1926). In Texas, McMurray (1971) and Simersky (1971) found a mean of 3.1 eggs per nest (range = 1-6), and Paul (1991) found averages of 2.6-3.2 eggs. The average clutch size of 81 and 15 Florida clutches was 2.75 and 3.3 eggs, respectively (Paul 1991, Stevenson and Anderson 1994). Both sexes incubate the eggs for an average of 26 days (21-36 days; McMurray 1971, Paul 1991). Adults brood the young for another three weeks and feed the young by regurgitation for an additional six weeks (Paul 1991).

Hatching success of eggs ranges from 18-86 percent in Texas and Florida (McMurray 1971, Paul 1991, Simersky 1971). The lowest value was a result of bald eagle predation (Paul 1991). Fledging success in Texas varied from 37-77 percent; the lower figure due to human disturbance (McMurray 1971, Paul 1991). In Florida Bay, fledging success ranged from 4-62.5 percent (average = 36 percent). The lower value was caused by a food shortage which resulted in nestling starvation (Paul 1991). In studies of nesting success in Texas, the number of young fledged per nest was 0.4 (McMurray 1971), 0.7-0.9 (Simersky 1971), and 1.2-1.5 (Paul 1991). In two of these studies, researcher disturbance was thought to have negatively influenced nest success (McMurray 1971, Simersky 1971). In Florida, the number of young fledged per nest ranged from 0.09-1.8 (average = 0.6). Poor production was a result of predation and food scarcity (Paul 1991). Renesting attempts are not as successful as first nesting attempts (Simersky 1971). Although a few individuals mature when two years old, most do not breed until 3-4 years old (Paul 1991, Paul 1996).

Ecology Comments: Generally solitary but may associate loosely with other herons (Stiles and Skutch 1989). Although known to live at least 11 years, 3 months, juvenile/adult survivorship is unknown (Paul 1991). Preliminary data suggest that birds return to their natal colonies, but long-term studies are needed (Paul 1991).
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: Apparently year-round resident in some portions of its range (Florida, U.S. Pacific coast, Caribbean Islands, and South American populations), but migratory elsewhere. Texas and Louisiana birds migrate southward in fall (Hancock and Kushlan 1984, Paul 1991). Migrants arrive in Costa Rica generally in November, depart by end of March (Stiles and Skutch 1989). Individuals banded in Texas have been recovered as far south as El Salvador and Guatemala (Paul 1991).
Estuarine Habitat(s): Bay/sound, Herbaceous wetland, Lagoon, River mouth/tidal river, Scrub-shrub wetland, Tidal flat/shore
Habitat Comments: FORAGING: Shallow water (usually less than 15 centimeters deep); saline, hypersaline, or brackish coastal habitats including barren sand or mud tidal flats, salt ponds, lagoons, and open red mangrove (RHIZOPHORA MANGLE) and black mangrove (AVICENNIA GERMINANS) communities (Paul 1991, Stevenson and Anderson 1994, Stiles and Skutch 1989). Occasionally feeds in other habitats including coastal beaches, sparsely-vegetated freshwater marshes, and the shores of lake and reservoirs (Paul 1991).

NESTING: Typically nests on natural islands or man-made dredge spoil islands, but occasionally nests on the coastal mainland (Paul 1991). Nests are generally constructed in red, black, and white (LAGUNCULARIA RACEMOSA) mangroves, but also in terrestrial vegetation including Brazilian pepper (SCHINUS TEREBINTHEFOLIUS), cactus (OPUNTIA spp.), mesquite (PROSOPIS spp.), huisache (ACACIA spp.), ragweed (AMBROSIA ARTEMISIIFOLIA), sea oxeye daisy (BORRICHIA FRUTESCENS), sea purslane (SESUVIUM PORTULACASTRUM), camphor daisy (MACHAERANTHERA PHYLLOCEPHALA), and spanish bayonet (YUCCA spp.). Nests are generally constructed less than 3 meters above the ground or water, but can be as high as 6 meters (McMurray 1971, Stevenson and Anderson 1994). Sometimes nests are placed on the ground among low vegetation or on bare sand or shell beach ridges (Bent 1926, McMurray 1971, Paul 1991, Paul et al. 1979, Simersky 1971, Stevenson and Anderson 1994, Toland 1991).

Adult Food Habits: Carnivore, Invertivore, Piscivore
Immature Food Habits: Carnivore, Invertivore, Piscivore
Food Comments: Forages in shallow water; stands motionless and waits for prey to come within striking distance or, more frequently, runs erratically through the water, frequently changing directions, leaping, stopping and starting, gliding short distances, and spreading its wings (the latter behavior referred to as canopy feeding; Paul 1991, Simersky 1971, Stevenson and Anderson 1994). Forages during the day (Powell 1987). Generally forages alone, but may loosely associate with other herons (Stiles and Skutch 1989). Adults are more efficient foragers (32-42 percent capture success) than immatures (25-29 percent capture success; Paul 1991; Rodgers 1983, cited in Paul 1991). Prey includes small fishes (at least 32 species), crustaceans (e.g., shrimp, crabs), and insects (Paul 1991). In Texas, 93 percent of the diet was comprised of two cyprinodontid killifish, the sheepshead minnow (CYPRINODON VARIEGATUS) and the longnose killifish (FUNDULUS SIMILIS; McMurray 1971, Simersky 1971). In another food habits study conducted in Texas, cyprinodontid killifish constituted 75 percent of the diet; whereas in Florida, 78 percent of the diet was comprised of killifish (Paul 1991).
Adult Phenology: Crepuscular, Diurnal
Immature Phenology: Crepuscular, Diurnal
Phenology Comments: Forages during daylight (Powell 1987).
Colonial Breeder: Y
Length: 76 centimeters
Weight: 450 grams
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Stewardship Overview: Although nearly extirpated from the United States by the plume trade, is now recolonizing areas of former occurrence where nesting/foraging habitat still remains. Habitat loss and human disturbance are now the primary threats. Christmas Bird Count (CBC) data indicate declines in Texas, but concomittent increases in Florida. Regular, non-disruptive monitoring of nesting colonies needs to be implemented, and general ecology, in both wintering and breeding habitats, needs urgent study.
Restoration Potential: Potential for restoring to areas of former occurrence are good, provided nesting and foraging habitat remain and human disturbance is minimal.
Preserve Selection & Design Considerations: Key components of preserves designed to protect this taxon include sufficient nesting habitat and extensive, shallow saltwater areas for foraging.
Management Requirements: To prevent disturbance to nesting birds, people on foot, or in boats or jet skis should stay at least 100 meters away from nesting colonies (Rodgers and Smith 1995). Important foraging areas should be protected from development, human disturbance, filling, dredging and pollution, and significant nesting colonies should be protected from human disturbance, predation, or destruction (Paul 1991).
Monitoring Requirements: Regular (every 3-5 years) surveys should be conducted during peak nesting activity with minimal disturbance to the birds. Monitoring efforts should be conducted from outside the colony whenever possible (Paul 1991).
Management Research Needs: Need to precisely determine set-back distances to protect nesting birds from human disturbance. Important foraging areas (breeding and non-breeding habitat) and nesting colonies need to be identified; population censuses need to be improved and conducted on a regular basis to monitor population fluctuations; nesting success needs regular monitoring; key nest predators need to identified; the impact of human subsistence hunting and coastal recreational activities need further study (Paul 1991). Non-disruptive research protocols need to be designed and implemented (Simersky 1971).
Biological Research Needs: Need to determine the impact of nest predation and other factors limiting population size. Need to investigate the potential impact of pesticides washed into foraging areas. Also need to determine juvenile/adult survivorship and nest/natal-site fidelity (Paul 1991).
Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Colonial Wading Birds

Use Class: Breeding
Subtype(s): Foraging Area, Breeding Colony
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of historical breeding , or current and likely recurring breeding, at a given location, minimally a reliable observation of one or more breeding pairs in appropriate habitat. Small heron colonies (rookeries or heronries) are often ephemeral in nature; recommend tracking rookeries which maintain a minimum of 15 active nests over 2-3 years. Where concentrations of non-breeding individuals occur within the boundaries of a breeding occurrence (especially if augmented by migrants), consider creating a separate occurrence with Location Use Class 'Nonbreeding.'
Mapping Guidance: Map Foraging Areas in separate polygons from the breeding colony if they are separated from the colony by areas simply flown over on commuting routes.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Justification: Occurrences include breeding colonies and foraging areas, but the separation distance pertains to breediing colonies. Hence, difference occurrences may overlap. Unsuitable habitat: upland areas, except those known to be used regularly for foraging (e.g., meadows used by great egrets).

Separation distance is an arbitrary compromise between the high mobility of these birds and the need for occurrences of practical size for conservation planning. Occurrences do not necessarily represent discrete populations or metapopulations.

Colony fidelity low in some species (e.g. Roseate Spoonbill, Dumas 2000; Glossy Ibis, Davis and Kricher 2000).

Feeding areas associated with a breeding colony (i.e. different features of the same occurrence) may be a number of kilometers away from the colony: averaging 12 kilometers for Roseate Spoonbill (Dumas 2000); 7.3 kilometers for Glossy Ibis (Davis and Kricher 2000); 2.8 to more than 5 kilometers for Snowy Egrets (Smith 1995).

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): 3 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: A low mean foraging range size for this group.
Date: 28Oct2004
Author: Cannings, S., and G. Hammerson

Use Class: Nonbreeding
Subtype(s): Roost, Foraging area
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of recurring presence of flocks of non-breeding birds (including historical), including non-breeding birds within the breeding season and breeding individuals outside the breeding season; and potential recurring presence at a given location. Normally only areas where concentrations greater than 10 birds occur regularly for at least 20 days per year would be deemed occurrences. Be cautious about creating occurrences for observations that may represent single events.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance arbitrary, set at 10 kilometers to define occurrences of manageable size for conservation purposes. Occurrences defined primarily on the basis of areas supporting concentrations of foraging birds, rather than on the basis of distinct populations.
Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): 3 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: Based on foraging ranges from breeding rookeries.
Date: 19Apr2002
Author: Cannings, S.
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 01May1995
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Jackson D., C. Sahley, and G. Hammerson; revisions by M. Koenen, D.W. Mehlman, and J. Palis
Management Information Edition Date: 30Nov1999
Management Information Edition Author: PALIS, J.; REVISIONS BY M. KOENEN AND D.W. MEHLMAN
Management Information Acknowledgments: Funding for the preparation of this abstract was provided through the Great Plains Bird Conservation Planning Team, supported by The Nature Conservancy's Wings of the Americas, Ecoregional Conservation, and Great Plains Programs.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 30Nov1999
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): PALIS, J., AND G. HAMMERSON

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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