The Great Egret (Ardea alba) and the Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) are the two that are seen most of the time around our area. However you may come across flocks of Cattle Egrets also. The Great Egret is the largest of the three. It has an orange or yellowish beak and black legs, where the Snowy Egret has a blackish beak and black legs. The Snowy is also quite a bit smaller.
The Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) is a shorter, stubbier bird. It is found in
upland habitats and near livestock, where the can get the insects off cattle, etc. Hence the name. I have come across flocks of the Cattle Egrets in the desert of Big Bend National Park. Probably on a migation route.
Two years ago on one of my trips to the Big Bend, as we were entering the park from the west near Study Butte, we pulled up to the kiosk where you pay your entrance fee to the park. Lo and behold, there were two Cattle Egrets and one Yellow-headed Blackbird sitting the roof. I pulled to the side of the road immediately. The Egrets flew to a nearby Ocotilla and I was able to get some very nice photos.
The two great egret photos were taken near the old K-mart store in southwest San Angelo. The Snowys were shot at O. C. Fisher lake and the cattle egrets were photographed several years ago in Big Bend National Park.
Click on any photo to see an enlargement.