Western Reef Egrets on Cocos (Keeling) Islands, new for Australia

Subject: Western Reef Egrets on Cocos (Keeling) Islands, new for Australia
From: "Mike Carter" <>
Date: Tue, 3 Apr 2007 17:12:40 +1000

For some years now several of us have suspected that odd-looking Reef Egrets occurring on Cocos (Keeling) Islands are Western Reef Egrets Ardea gularis. See for instance Don Hadden's article in the December 2006 'Wingspan' Vol. 16 No. 4 p.37, where he surprisingly concluded they were hybrids between Little and Western Reef Egrets. I think he probably meant Little and Eastern Reef Egrets. John Darnell discussed the problem in some detail in the Handbook of Western Australian Birds, Vol 2 Passerines, Appendix B, Birds from Cocos-Keeling Islands, p. 488. Up to now most individuals have been white or intermediate morph birds often with a sprinkling of black or grey. During our (Colin Judkins, Grant Penrhyn & I) recent visit to Cocos, we saw a classic dark morph bird leaving no doubt as to its identity. It was identical to the picture of this species in Mullarney et al., the Collins Bird Guide, The Most Complete Field Guide to the Birds of Britain & Europe, complete with white chin & throat, nuchal plume, wholly yellow feet, pale drooping bill with dark tip, and some white at the carpal. We have photos of the bird on the ground and in flight!

The status of this taxon is disputed, some considering it a subspecies of Little Egret but Monroe & Sibley 1993, 'A World Checklist of Birds', treats it as a full species as do most modern authors.

The likely subspecies is schistacea which occurs along the coasts of the northern Indian Ocean east to NW India. After breeding, some birds move south down the western coast of the Indian subcontinent reaching the Maldives and Lacadive Islands. On Cocos, they seem to prefer the land or fresh water areas rather than the lagoon and shore frequented by Eastern Reef Egrets.

Mike Carter
30 Canadian Bay Road
Mount Eliza  VIC 3930
Tel  (03) 9787 7136


To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send the message: unsubscribe (in the body of the message, with no Subject line)

<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