Rare bird breeds in Norfolk for first time

Western cattle egrets at the Holkham estate. Pictures: Andy Bloomfield

Western cattle egrets at the Holkham estate. Pictures: Andy Bloomfield - Credit: Archant

They share a name. But when these two came face-to-face, it was clear that they were no more than very distant relatives.

Western cattle egrets at the Holkham estate. Pictures: Andy Bloomfield

Western cattle egrets at the Holkham estate. Pictures: Andy Bloomfield - Credit: Archant

Cattle at the Holkham Estate have been acquainting themselves with new arrivals, after western cattle egret were successfully bred there for the first time.

The species of heron is normally found in the tropics, but four pairs have been bred in Norfolk this summer, and one has successfully fledged young.

It is part of the breed’s continued expansion across England, and it is hoped that visitors will be able to see the family roaming the coastal grazing marshes.

This summer’s continued expansion follows a successful 2019, in which the species nested in three new counties.

Western cattle egrets at the Holkham estate. Pictures: Andy Bloomfield

Western cattle egrets at the Holkham estate. Pictures: Andy Bloomfield - Credit: Archant

Holkham is a well-established hot-spot for scarce breeding waterbirds, being the focal point of Britain’s embryonic Eurasian spoonbill population.

Andy Bloomfield, warden on the Holkham National Nature Reserve, said: “Holkham offers a safe, undisturbed woodland area where the four breeding pairs were discovered in the middle of fresh water grazing marshes where cattle graze and water levels are maintained to create a mixture of flooded fields and drier areas - ideal habitats for all the prey species that these colonists need to survive.

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“In African countries cattle egrets are commonly seen feeding on the backs, or around the feet, of elephants and hippos. Sadly, there are none of these at Holkham, so they will have to make do with Holkham’s herds of Devonshire crosses and Belted Galloways.”

Find out more at www.holkham.co.uk/nature-reserve-beach/nature-reserve

Western cattle egrets at the Holkham estate. Pictures: Andy Bloomfield

Western cattle egrets at the Holkham estate. Pictures: Andy Bloomfield - Credit: Archant