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Thursday, July 8, 2004

ANIMAL TRACKER

Little egret


* Japanese name: Kosagi
* Scientific name: Egretta garzetta
* Description: The Little Egret is a bird related to the heron, with snow-white plumage, a long, pointed black bill and black legs with bright yellow feet. Its body is 50-60 cm long. In the breeding season in summer, the feet turn bright red, and males develop breeding plumes: two long feathers at the nape of the neck and a few lacy ones on the back and rump. Yearling birds have greenish bills, with black marks and pale-green face markings; their legs are dull black. They are not very vocal, at the most managing a croak when they are on their nests.
* Where to find them: Ponds, marshlands, rivers and lakes, but especially rice paddies, all over Japan. Little egrets build simple nests with pieces of bamboo and twigs. Typical nest sites are in waterside bushes and trees, but rocks and walls may also be used; they sometimes they even nest on the ground. Little egrets are migratory and found from Europe to East Asia.
* Food: Little egrets are not fussy and eat a variety of animals, including fish, frogs, mollusks, worms and insects. If they get the chance they will even eat small mammals and birds.
* Special features: Unlike herons (their relatives), little egrets don't just stand around waiting for food to come to them -- they actively hunt out their prey. In shallow waters they may carefully stalk their prey, or they might stand on one leg and stir the mud with the other to disturb it. They also sometimes lure curious prey into range by waving a bright yellow foot over the surface of the water. Sometimes they raise their wings over the water to create shade, perhaps to reduce the glare or to provide a false hiding place. Little egrets may be seen hunting in groups, but show aggressive territorial behavior in their hunting patch.
Both parents help raise the young. In some countries, the beautiful breeding plumes of the little egret were fashionable in hats and the birds were hunted to low levels; populations have recovered now and mercury poisoning is the main threat.



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