Thursday, 26 July 2018

Intermediate Egret

The name Intermediate (Egretta intermedia) is appropriate as the size of this egret is between the smaller Little (Egretta garzetta) and the larger Great (Ardea alba).

I recently found an Intermediate Egret hunting in the Byron Wetlands – see my previous post on the Little Egret for a comparison. As mentioned in the Little Egret post the Intermediate and Great Egrets “are stealthy stalking hunters, often standing motionless for extended periods before making lightning-fast lunges using their long retracted necks and dagger sharp bills to capture fish and other aquatic prey”. This is exactly how the bird in the following photos was hunting.

The photos were taken about 9am in full bright sunshine. I had to underexpose by selecting -1ev to stop the brilliant white plumage over exposing or blowing out with a resultant loss of feather definition.

Please click on photos to enlarge.

The bird became very focused when sizing up prey.

This bird is carrying erectile plumes on its back and breast, however its facial skin is yellow so it is not in breeding condition – the facial skin is pea green when in breeding condition.

If you look closely you will see the bird has caught a small fish.

The bird has moved slowly into this forward leaning pose, keeping its legs still to avoid spooking its prey, and is now about to strike.

Moments after the above photo I managed to capture another strike.

The extended head and neck of the Intermediate Egret is about as long as its body. The Great Egret’s head and neck, when stretched out, is nearly one and a half times as long as its body. This long reach, due to long legs and necks, suits stealthy stalking whereas the shorter Little Egret actively dashes about as part of its hunting technique. While the three Egrets share a very similar body plan, each has adapted to a slightly different ecological niche.

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