This weekend several birders in Novara, Northern Italy observed the bird below. It is clearly a Great White Egret (Casmerodius albus). The dark bill would suggest a breeding plumaged bird however, the bird lacks the classic Egret plumes associated with breeding plumage. Then there are the red legs! It has been suggested that some C. albus albus can show red legs for short periods of time during breeding although this feature is more common in C. albus modestus. Based on size (and probability), I don't think that this can be modestus. Searching the net, I have come up with several birds in various European countries (Holland, Germany, Spain, Italy and others) which show red legs at various times of the year with differing theories. Anyone know if a final conclusion has been reached on these birds? The thing that is really bothering me is, if this bird is at the peak of its breeding condition, why does it not show an impressive array of plumes? Does anyone have experience of such birds?
Photos by Ettore Rigamonte