Rare visitor provides a first for the Uists

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A rare cattle egret has flown in to a croft on RSPB Balranald nature reserve on north Uist and is currently making itself at home with the resident cattle.

This is the first time that a cattle egret has been recorded on the Uists.

Though cattle egrets are visiting the UK in increasing numbers, most of these are down in the south of England or Wales.

As the name suggests, cattle egrets often spend time close to livestock, feeding on insects and worms that the animals’ hooves disturb. In the UK, this often means they associate with cattle, sheep or even wild deer, but in Africa it can mean they hang around with hippos!

Crofter Angus Ferguson said: “When I move my cattle, the egret follows although there are plenty of other cattle in the township. The only explanation must be that I must have the best cattle!”

RSPB Balranald manager Jamie Boyle said: “The cattle egret looks fairly settled amongst this small herd of cattle. It’s been sitting on the fence next to the back door of the croft house – almost like a pet. Cattle egrets are an amazingly successful bird – they’re found on six of the seven continents worldwide, but haven’t yet colonised the UK. They differ from little egrets in that they have a distinctive yellow beak and greyish legs.”

How long this bird will hang around is anybody’s guess, but once the cooler weather really takes hold and its food becomes scarce it should fly off to pastures new. In the meantime, it seems quite happy amongst its newly adopted hosts.