Date: 11/7/18 7:32 pm
From: <mtove...>
Subject: FW: Watauga County egret
I’ve looked at the pics and also have some experience with Intermediate Egrets (Philippines, Hong Kong).

My concern is that based on the photos, the mouth gape seems to extend beyond the center of the eye. Granted the bird's head is tucked down so it's hard to tell if this is real or an artifact. But in all the pics (where the head is in focus and visible), I consistently see what appears to be a “crease” that continues as an extension of the mouth gape past the center of the eye. I’m not certain either way, but it does give me pause.

Regards other marks: I don’t believe that neck position/shape is a completely reliable field mark as it's behaviorally presented and birds can do things that are atypical (not that this was offered as a field mark). The gray legs and dark-tipped bill are consistent with the ID but for me at least, these “other marks” (and more – e.g., bill length/shape, head shape, etc.) are more useful to single out birds for careful scrutiny than confirm an ID. For me at least, I wasn’t comfortable with the ID if I didn’t see the mouth gape which is consistently touted as THE definitive field mark. Even where Intermediate Egrets were common (along with Greats), I recall hedging on the IDs of many.

According to National Geographic Guide to Birds (6th edition), there is a single record of a moribund Intermediate Egret from Buldir Is., Alaska (western Aleutians), May 2006. Other than that, I’m unaware of any other records from North America and similarly I’m unaware of any fall records. Given that level of rarity, I would hope everyone is VERY sure that there’s no possible way this bird isn't a “funny” Great Egret and the rest isn’t a lot of enthusiastic wishful thinking. I know it’s tough but personally, I’d rather not ID a bird as a rarity (and be wrong) than the other way around. Obviously, it would be great if the bird could be refound and carefully scrutinized for definitive evidence one way or the other.

Mike Tove

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