25 May 2010

Which bird is now widespread after 15 years of breeding in Britain?

Little Egret ringing is a recent phenomenon in this country and Jez Blackburn has been helping improve our knowledge of this species by ringing chicks in Norfolk. He reports on the current situation below.

Monitoring of this Little Egret colony in Norfolk started in 2007 with 19 nests counted. This increased to 28 in 2008 but then dropped to 17 in 2009. This year 24 active nests have been recorded. 27 chicks have been ringed so far from 8 nests and in the other nests had chicks that were too small for ringing or on eggs. All birds have been individually colour ringed and this is showing some interesting movements with two birds ringed in 2009 that were found in France and Spain last winter, presumed to be cold weather movements. On average 10% of the birds marked have been sighted away from the colony.

If you monitor a Heronry, keep an eye out for Little Egrets as they tend to breed in the same or adjacent trees. However they are not obvious (even though they a large white bird!) unless you are in the colony and generally nest later than the Herons. If you are a ringer and can safely access the nests for ringing please contact Richard Hearn (littleegrets@yahoo.co.uk) the co-ordinator, about the use of colour rings. Even if you can't get access to ring the chicks remember to nest record the details and submit these (along with the Heron data) via IPMR. Don't forget also that annual counts of apparently occupied nests of egrets and herons are needed for all heronries for the BTO Heronries Census (now in its 83rd year!), at herons@bto.org.

Posted on behalf of Jez Blackburn and photos by Dorian Moss of Little Egrets and Rachael Portnall

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