The Cattle Egret (Ardea ibis) is large compared to other native birds, but is actually the smallest of the Egrets, and unmistakable in its breeding plumage with long yellow or ginger plumes on its head, neck , back and throat.
It’s frequently found feeding among grazing animals which is probably where the name came from (I presume).
The breeding adult is white, often rather scruffy, with yellowish beak and legs. Cattle Egrets are found in most coastal regions of Australia, not necessarily close to water, although it breeds in trees over water.
These photos were made in Melbourne Zoo’s Great Aviary and the images below gives you some idea of how large this space is.
While Melbourne Zoo, located to the north of the city and easily accessible via tram from William Street, is open 365 days of the year, there is the odd occasion when the Aviary is closed for maintenance, so if you’re visiting to specifically visit the Great Aviary, it might be worth a phone call before you leave home/hotel.
Another hint: Don’t go during the school holidays in Melbourne, as young children have a habit of running down the boardwalk and squealing excitedly, which kind of…… spoils the experience a wee bit…..well it does for me. Not that I have anything against young children enjoying themselves, but I really do think, for the enjoyment of other visitors, parents might try to discourage loud boisterous behaviour in this particular area. There are signs at the Aviary entrance requesting that children don’t run anyway.
I could easily spend 2 hours in the Great Aviary and have done so many, many times over the years.