The Reddish Egret is the rarest and least known of the egrets and herons of North America. The species occurs within a narrow latitudinal range extending east from the Baja California peninsula, including the Gulf of California, the Yucatan Peninsula, the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico to peninsular Florida and islands in the Caribbean basin, namely Bahamas and Cuba. The global population is estimated to be 7,000-11,000 individuals. The Reddish Egret represents an international resource, with Mexico and the U.S. supporting equally the bulk of the global breeding population, complemented by a number of Central American and Caribbean nations. Despite its broad range, the Reddish Egret occupies a restricted belt of coastal habitat, is patchily distributed and has a relatively small and declining global population. Accordingly there is broad international consensus that the Reddish Egret is in need of active conservation attention.
Nature of Migration
Has been described as partially migratory along northern limit of the breeding range (Cooke 1913). Postbreeding dispersal occurs in late spring or summer and involves mostly immatures, with individuals now reported annually as far north as North Carolina on Atlantic Coast and southern California on Pacific, and few vagrants even farther north to inland sites (see Appendix 1).
Direct recoveries of birds banded in Texas and Louisiana indicated southward movement in September–November, with individuals occurring as far south as El Salvador and Guatemala. Direct recoveries of birds banded in Baja California Sur indicated varying movements including northwards to southwestern California (San Diego) and southeastern Arizona (Tucson) and southwards to Chiapas and El Salvador (MCG and E. Palacios, unpublished data). A tracking study of 27 adults that were marked when breeding in the Laguna Madre, Texas, found that 11 birds moved southward 85–1,942 km out of the Laguna Madre during the overwintering period, suggesting Texas-breeding adults exhibit a partial migration strategy (Koczur 2017). Two additional adults moved short distances northward out of the Laguna Madre during the overwintering period. Movements of birds in West Indies are poorly known, although Robertson (1978) suggested that white-morph birds occurring as far north as Florida Panhandle in summer might be from colonies in Cuba. Nonbreeders summer in portions of the overwintering range.
Koczur, L. M., M. C. Green, B. M. Ballard, P. E. Lowther, and R. T. Paul (2020). Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.