Relationship between group size and feeding success of cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis) in the central Free State
Regardless of habitat or time of day, cattle egrets feeding independently of hosts generally occurring larger groups than those feeding in close association with ungulates. The average group size of three individuals feeding in association with hosts stays remarkably constant with regard to divergent situations. Based on the type of habitat and the grazing speed of the host concerned, cattle egrets achieve the highest feeding success (number of prey items) with the least energy inputs (number of paces) in association with cattle, and to a lesser extent with the closely related buffalo. Compared to solitary birds, cattle egrets feeding in groups experience without exceptional higher feeding success. Results of feeding experiments, as well as the exceptional occurrence of so-called feeding lines, confirm the phenomenon that the feeding success of cattle egrets correlates closely with the size of the feeding group.