Nine species of herons were followed to their feeding sites from a nesting colony near Beaufort, North Carolina, by airplane. Except for the Cattle Egret, which flew exclusively to fields and dumps, all other species flew mainly to saltmarsh habitat. In addition, habitats were selected in relation to tidal depth and it appears, at least for the Great Egret, that low tide habitats were preferred. Most Great Egrets, White Ibises, Louisiana Herons, and Snowy Egrets flew close to the colony and numbers decreased farther from the colony. The Great Egret, Black-crowned Night Heron, and White Ibis flew farther from the colony at high than at low tide. In addition, the species differed in distance flown from the colony. Great Egrets traveled farther from the colony when they used thermals. Rate of travel to feeding sites, however, was the same whether Great Egrets used thermals or not. Aggressive encounters were observed in the Great Egret, Louisiana Heron, Snowy Egret, and Black-crowned Night Heron. Cattle Egrets and White Ibises followed other individuals to feeding sites and it appeared as though they were using the colony as an information center. The Great Egret is the only species to effectively use eelgrass beds near Beaufort. The Great Egrets use of this habitat was restricted to about 1.5 hours on either side of low tide. We suspect that other shorter- legged species did not use eelgrass regularly because of its depth.
Additional Publication Details
The use of feeding habitat by a colony of herons, egrets, and ibises near Beaufort, North Carolina
Proceedings Conference of the Colonial Waterbird Group