Re: Cattle Egrets and mice at the WTP

Subject: Re: Cattle Egrets and mice at the WTP
From: Harvey Perkins <>
Date: Tue, 3 May 2005 14:30:00 +1000
At 12:52 PM +1000 3/5/05, wrote:
I saw one of the Cattle Egrets take off from the pack with a mouse in its beak. I didn't see what it did with it, but i assume it took it off to enjoy the meal in privacy.

Has anyone else seen any type of egrets feeding on mice before?
Seems unusual...

A few members from the Canberra Ornithologists Group witnessed a similar event on 23 Dec 2003 at Kellys Swamp, a local wetland in Canberra, but that time it was a Great Egret and the prey was a small rat.

It was written up in Canberra Bird Notes if you want to chase it up [Perkins H, Gilfedder M, Gilfedder C, and Dabb G (2004) CBN 29(1):23], but the relevant text follows:

One of the Great Egrets was foraging quietly in the lush grass at the edge of the swamp ... when it stabbed down into the vegetation suddenly. To our surprise it came up with a small rat which had been neatly stabbed through the body. The egret danced a few paces into the swamp and began a slow process of drowning the rat by repeated dipping into the water and manipulating the bedraggled animal in its bill. It took several minutes for the rat to be subdued to the point where it was (or at least seemed) lifeless and the egret then swallowed it head-first.

Unfortunately we are not able to specifically identify the rat in question, but it was about 90 mm (head-body length, based on comparison to egret's bill length which averages 112 mm for males and 103 mm for females according to HANZAB) and, unlike that of a Water Rat Hydromys chrysogaster,  appeared to have a rather pointed face.

HANZAB (vol I part 2, p 290) lists for the Great Egret a variety of large food items, but includes no mammals. Handbook of the Birds of the World (HBW) does, however, include mammalian items for the Great Egret.




Dr Harvey D. Perkins
School of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
The Australian National University
Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia
ph +61 2 6125 2693; fax:+61 2 6125 0313
Pest Animal Control Cooperative Research Centre

Editor, Canberra Bird Notes
(Journal of the Canberra Ornithologists Group)
42 Summerland Circuit, Kambah, ACT 2902
Ph: (02) 6231 8209  mobile: 043 886 9990
<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU