What is an invasive species? According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, an invasive species is one that is not native to a particular ecosystem and that does or is likely to cause harm to the environment and/or the economy.
The Cattle Egret is an invasive species of heron found in many parts of the world, including Illinois. Originally native to southern Spain and Portugal, in the early 19th century it began “one of the most rapid and wide-reaching natural expansions of any bird species”
It is speculated that the cattle egret first arrived in the Americas in 1877 after flying across the Atlantic Ocean, but it was not thought to be established there until 1930. They arrived in North America in 1941 and were bred in Florida beginning in 1953. They are now seen throughout the country from Florida to California. Also known as the cow crane, cow bird or cow heron, cattle egrets are in the habit of following cattle or other large animals and feeding on insects that are attracted to these animals. Although considered invasive in Illinois, they are not known to cause any significant ecological damage. They can, however, be a safety hazard at airports and spread disease.
Continue reading: WMC Conservation Newsletter March 2018
By: Kate Keets, WMC Conservation Chair, Class of 2021