So this is the one of the three members of the heron/egret/bittern family (that I hadn’t seen before) that I was able to spot on the trip to South Padre Island when we went to the birding and nature center.
These are medium to large size herons (similar in size to the great blue heron), and can been seen in two different color phases. Unlike other birds that might go between color phases, for the heron the colors are permanent. There is the dark phase: dark gray body with a reddish neck and head; and the white (all white) with dark legs and bills.
The young egrets are an ashy copper color, which makes them easy to identify as juvenile reddish egrets as there is no other egret/heron species that has that coloring when they’re young.
In terms of location–they are found mainly along the Gulf Coast, potentially year round (Texas, parts of Louisiana and Florida coasts) and throughout the summer (parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida panhandle).
Basically they can be spotted along coastal tidal flats, salt marshes, shores, and lagoons. In terms of the breeding season-they like the red mangrove swamps in Florida (breeding season can be either in the winter or spring), and arid coastal islands in Texas (breeding season is in the spring) that have thorny bushes.
These egrets eat primarily small fish (such as minnows, mullet, or killfish), plus frogs, tadpoles, and various crustaceans.
They can be spotted wading through the water, sitting and waiting, or running through the water, leaping into the air, dropping down and stabbing at the fish.
The egrets are also know to extend their wings over their head like an umbrella and hunt under the canopy they create. This umbrella/canopy also attracts fish to the ‘shade’ and allows for the egret to see their prey more easily without the glare of the sun.
This was another bird that was almost driven to extinction in the 1800s due to the demand for their feathers and plumes for hats. While the herons have made a comeback-the percentage in terms of color morphs seems to have flipped. Prior to almost being driven to extinction, there was a higher percentage of birds in the white morph compared to the darker morph (which is more common now a days).
Photography goal will be to try to spot a white reddish egret in the wild, plus get a picture of a young reddish egret as well. In addition I would like to get a picture of one ‘umbrella’ hunting as well.
Reference: https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/reddish-egret and https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/reddish_egret