Date: 12/21/18 10:01 pm
From: Shawneen Finnegan <shawneenfinnegan...>
Subject: [obol] The EGRET
I sent a message out to various folks who lead tours in Africa and Asia with Sally’s new photos from today. The first to respond is Kevin Zimmer who leads for VENT.

We looked for it last Sunday without success when we thought we were looking for a Cattle Egret. Now the soonest we can return is the 24th.


Hi Shawneen -

From what I can see in these photos, I’d say that your egret is consistent with an identification of Intermediate Egret. It would be nice to see it with its neck extended to get a better idea of relative neck length. I see a fair number of Intermediate Egrets in Africa, and the separation of that species from Great Egret is not always straightforward, particularly at a distance. There have been a number of times when, at a distance, I took a smaller, shorter-billed bird to be an Intermediate Egret, only to discover when I got closer, that it was a Great Egret — these likely represented females, which are known, on average, to be smaller and shorter-billed than males.

The one mark that I rely on in Africa, is the extension of the gape line relative to the eye. In Great Egret (at least the subspecies found in eastern Africa), the gape always extends noticeably beyond the rear edge of the eye. In Intermediate, it extends only to the rear edge of the eye (at most). The gape line on the Oregon bird is consistent with that of the Intermediate Egrets that I have studied in the field, and wrong for Great Egret. My one caveat with respect to this mark, is that I can’t really say that I’ve paid attention to the length of the gape in North American Great Egrets, to see if it consistently extends beyond the eye as it does in the African populations. After all, on this continent, there is no expected ID contender for which that mark becomes an issue!

The Oregon bird also looks to have a more rounded profile to the crown than I would expect from Great Egret, and the bill looks to be on the short side for that species as well. I am curious about what appears to be some remnant patches of buff coloration in the plumage (or is that the optical effect of wind-blown grass in the foreground?), almost like what you would expect from a Cattle Egret in transition.

In summary, I see no obvious reason discounting an ID of Intermediate Egret, although I would be hesitant to bet the farm on it without having seen it in the field, and especially where it could be compared directly with obvious Great Egrets.

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