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Is there a pecking order in the egret family tree?

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”John Muir”

Manabi Province, Ecuador –

Many birds feast in the shrimp ponds; when the water is drained for harvest, the avian telegraph announces the all-you-can-eat buffet!

Yay!  Lunch is ready!/

Yay! Lunch is ready!/

Elusive white ibis flock to the ponds for their ration of shellfish; petite kingfishers perch near the outlet pipes and spear random hors d’oeuvres.  Great egrets tower over snowy egrets and little blue herons as they scramble, squawk and poke for shrimp and fish.

P5250209 snowy egret

Conceited snowy egrets, pairing black leggings with bright-yellow slippers,  fluff their wispy feathers to claim entitlement to the choicest morsels!

One Happy Family...

One Happy Family…

In formal attire, the black-necked stilts add a modest touch of elegance and keep a low profile along the edges of the pond!  Although the stilts have always captured my attention, I realized that I knew little when I began a study based on an old photo. They are black and white and have very long reddish-pink legs. Do they all have pink legs, or do the male and female have different colorations?


“Oh Grandmother; what big eyes you have!”

Consulting a bird book, I was surprised to learn that stilts have red eyes! (Red eyes?) I looked at photos on the computer. The less-than precise images showed dark eyes. Details were lacking on the bill as well, and I was unsure – was it curved slightly like an ibis, or did it have a slight upturn – or was it straight as a sewing needle? Rather than guess, I waited for an opportunity for field research.

Ah; have camera will stalk!

Ah; have camera will stalk!

Several days later my friends harvested a pond, and I stalked the wading birds and watched their movements. The black-necked stilts, eager to please the naturalist, meandered along the edges while providing ample poses. At times the snowy egrets bullied the stilts, and I called out, ‘BULLY!”


Beware of Body English!

P6030251  STILT contorts

The Art of Balance!


Yow!  Bully!

There were no food fights, but the different species dashed after a just-seen fish andshrimp in the way children dash after Easter eggs!

P6030196 CATTLE EGRET BULLIES P5290071 scram little one P6030187 SNOWY EGRETSReturning home, I relived the bird-watching session while examining photos. Yes, the stilts do have red eyes, though the red tint is hard to see on cloudy days. Yes, the bills are straight, and they taper like a needle.

So here’s the image in progress:


P6050083 STILTS ACRYLIC in progress

(In progress) – Black-necked Stilts – Acrylic 24″ x 36″ – Lisa Brunetti

The photo session provided reference material and also recorded the memory of a well-spent afternoon.

(Old image) The  birds love to feast after a shrimp harvest!

(Old image) The birds love to feast after a shrimp harvest!


What I gleaned most was a greater appreciation for the social life of the birds at an all-you-can-eat buffet!