Page last updated at 12:28 GMT, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 13:28 UK

First cattle egrets breed in UK

Colony of cattle egrets beside lake in Texas, USA
The Somerset breeding site has remained a secret

Bird watchers in a Somerset village are celebrating the first cattle egret to be hatched in Britain.

Somerset Ornithological Society members spotted a breeding pair and chick but will not say where the nest is to protect future eggs from collectors.

The group described it as a "momentous event" and said it hoped cattle egrets would settle permanently in Britain.

The birds are a species of heron and are normally seen perched on the backs of buffalo in Africa.

'Breeding plumes'

Stephen Moss of the Somerset Ornitholigical Society said: "This is a bird that has been seen in the UK - probably two or three individuals a year - for some time now.

"Last year we had a big influx - dozens of them literally - in Cornwall, Devon and half a dozen or so in Somerset.

"This spring we all got very excited, as the Somerset birders, when we noticed that two pairs of these birds were still hanging around and hadn't gone back to Europe.

"They had actually adopted these wonderful breeding plumes that gave us the idea that they were almost certainly nesting.

"We haven't actually seen the nest and we're probably not likely to until the autumn when all the leaves fall off the trees.

"Somebody has seen at least one chick and the good news is that the chick has fledged and left the nest successfully and that is the first baby cattle egret ever to be born in Britain so this is a pretty momentous event.

"I'm pretty certain that this pair that we've got here will come back again next year and almost certainly have others with them.

"I think that within perhaps 10 to 20 years birders won't even give them a second glance."

Egrets? Nature reserve has a few
24 Apr 08 |  North East/N Isles
Twitchers flock to see rare heron
03 Dec 07 |  Manchester

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Guardian Unlimited Cattle egrets breed in the UK for the first time - 26 hrs ago
North County Times LETTERS: NCT, July 21, 2008 (1701) - 54 hrs ago

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