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Little Egret or hybrid (1 Viewer)

njlarsen

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Barbados
This bird is from Barbados where Snowy are more common than Little Egret, but you can find Little egret just about any day of the year if you put in the work. This one has the neck plumes of an adult little in breeding plumage but has some yellow on the lores. This looks less orange-yellow than lores on the snowys usually do here, however, I usually see the LiEg with bluish lores. Is this within variation for a little or is it a hybrid? Is it possibly a bird getting into high breeding where LiEg does change lore color?

thanks
Niels

Egret question P1170899.jpg
 

Microtus

Maryland USA (he/him)
United States
Niels, your bird resembles the illustration of Little Egret in the 6th edition of the National Geographic field guide. With the two head plumes, it is certainly not a Snowy Egret.
 

njlarsen

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Barbados
Thanks both. I also noticed the text in the NatGeo FG stating that the lores are more likely to be yellow in breeding plumage, which is now.

I also looked through two pages worth of birdforum gallery images of little egret. I saw several images that were similar enough that I feel my image shows a bird within the variation. Given that the lores were my only reason for pause, I am going with Little Egret for this bird.
Niels
 

njlarsen

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Barbados
For comparison, here is a photo from March this year with several little egret. The third bird from the right is either a snowy or a hybrid, I am not positive.

Niels egrets P1170533.jpg
 

njlarsen

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Barbados
Maybe I should add: You would only expect hybrids to form where both species occur together. They do that in Barbados, Antigua and possibly a couple of other islands in the Caribbean, and to the best of my knowledge, nowhere else with any regularity. So hybrids are less well characterized.

Niels
 

thedipper_hk

Well-known member
United States
Maybe I should add: You would only expect hybrids to form where both species occur together. They do that in Barbados, Antigua and possibly a couple of other islands in the Caribbean, and to the best of my knowledge, nowhere else with any regularity. So hybrids are less well characterized.

Niels
And beyond the species overlap, the Little Egret population in Barbados, though documented to breed, still has a population bottleneck as it's non-contiguous with the global breeding population of the species.

I have no idea if accurate or not, but a quick web search suggested 46 or so Little Egrets on Barbados. That increases the chances of an edge case where a bird won't find a mate without looking for one among a locally more populous species that is a close genetic relative.

And if you don't like that idea, don't look at Homo sapiens' genome which provides evidence of hybridisation with near-human species.
 

THE_FERN

Well-known member
I believe they are pretty rare but cannot put a number on it. There is one or two blog entries by Sibley on the topic with this being one:
Thanks for the links. Sounds like little egret could be poised to colonise the Americas!

(Was a genuine question. I'm interested in how distinct things like this species pair are and hybridisation is one measure of that.)
 
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