The Dance of the Reddish Egret

December 15, 2020 Documentaries, My Solo Trip, The most beautiful places in North America

The Reddish Egrets are one of my favorite herons, and I not only love them because of the amazing color of their feathers but also because of the beautiful dance they perform in the water.

Reddish Egret, Egretta rufescens, Photography © Victoria Restrepo
Reddish Egret, Egretta rufescens, Performing its fishing dance

They have lots of energy. It is exciting to see how they run, jump, spin, and twirl in the air. They spread their wings, and finally…they pull a fish out of the water.

Reddish Egret, Egretta rufescens, enjoying its summertime
Reddish Egret, Egretta rufescens, white morph, taking a bow.
Reddish Egret, Egretta rufescens, twirling in the air
Reddish Egret, Egretta rufescens, there must be a fish down there
Reddish Egret, Egretta rufescens, Photography © Victoria Restrepo

Where did I find them?

I found them at Fort DeSoto Park in Saint Petersburg, Florida. From May to November, I visited them several times each week at different times. I went to the park at sunrise, midday, or sunset and found them in a large group with other shorebirds, especially with other herons.

Reddish Egret, Egretta rufescens, the fish is right there

Are they in big flocks?

I never really saw more than two of them simultaneously, although I did learn to differentiate them by the color of their feathers. The biggest difference is between the red and the white morpho. The color of the beak can also be dark red or bright pink, with only a little bit of a darker color on the tip.

Reddish Egret, Egretta rufescens, beautiful plumage

How do they catch their prey?

Reddish egrets present a different behavior from other herons whose hunting tactic allows them to remain immobile for a long time. They do very passive fishing, in which they wait for the prey to approach them in order to catch it. But reddish egrets make every meal a big party. They dance as if they didn’t mind catching the fish!

Reddish Egret, Egretta rufescens, white morph

They feed on fish, mollusks, frogs, lizards, and insects, and when I think of their diverse diet, I can assume that, although dancing allows them to catch fish, this is by no means their main way of getting their prey. 

Reddish Egret, Egretta rufescens, just playing with food

Why do they dance?

I developed my own theory and am not a scientist, so I cannot validate it.  After spending so many hours observing them and the time I now use while editing, checking all their movements and the time they use to swirl around, it is difficult for me to believe that this beautiful dance is only a feeding technique.

Reddish Egret, Egretta rufescens, Photography © Victoria Restrepo

I have seen too many animals at play, and I believe that these egrets are not an exception and that they perform their dance simply for the enjoyment of pirouetting and playing in the water if they are also rewarded with a delicious bite, good for them!

Reddish Egret, Egretta rufescens

Where do they live?

Reddish egrets are found in the United States coastal states with a shoreline on the Gulf of Mexico, mainly Florida, and Texas. They can also be found on the Caribbean islands, both in the Atlantic and in the Pacific Ocean in Mexico and Central America. Some reddish egrets migrate to the northern coasts of South America in Colombia and Venezuela during the winter but return north to breed.

Reddish Egret, Egretta rufescens, Photography © Victoria Restrepo

Among the hundreds of photographs I took of them, I chose my favorites to share in this gallery. The video also compiles the hours I spent enjoying their company and learning about them.

To read the post and watch the video in Spanish, please follow the link:


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