The lion punk bird of the Florida mangroves

Reddish Egrets were once quite abundant in Florida but became almost extinct in the early 1900’s as a result of the plume trade that used their beautiful feathers for the adornment of women’s hats. They were not seen at all in Florida between 1927 and 1937, but numbers are gradually increasing due to conservation efforts.



The Reddish Egret has a wide variety of feeding behaviors. It will run through the shallow water, head tilted to one side and suddenly change direction or leap sideways. Sometimes they stand still, spread their wings and wait for fish to seek shelter in their shade. They eat mostly small fish and also frogs, tadpoles, crustaceans and sometimes aquatic insects. 


According to Dr Kenneth Meyer, who has been studying them since 2009,  their "dancing" is all very deliberate behavior that has a purpose.

"It is related to finding, herding and catching fish. It's not easy to catch the small fish they can eat. It is not like it is everywhere. It is hard for them to get food, especially if they are nesting."

Dr. Meyer's study began after eight satellite transponders were put on the birds in the Florida Keys to look at how they moved throughout the year, how far they nested and how well they survived. The solar powered satellite collects data every two hours for up to seven years.


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  • Yes, they are really fun to watch and try to capture their antics. I feel luck too to being able to see them on Sanibel.

    • cindy walpole
  • Reddish Egrets are one of my favorite birds. I always feel lucky when I get to photograph them at Merritt Island NWR.

    • Helen Pine