The mustangs of the Corolla Wild Horses seem to have a relationship with cattle egrets that work well for both parties.

The mustangs of the Corolla Wild Horses seem to have a relationship with cattle egrets that work well for both parties.

Anyone who has taken a trip north of the paved road in Corolla, the Carova 4WD area, has probably seen the Corolla Wild Mustangs. Especially during the summer they like to hang out at the beach, probably for the same reasons we do. It’s hot and the water feels great.

Some of the more interesting behaviors of the mustangs, though, are found away from the beach, in the dune grass, marsh and maritime forests of the area.

One of the more interesting behaviors has to do with their relationship with cattle egrets, a white mid-sized member of the heron family.

The cattle egrets themselves are interesting birds, finding their way somehow to North America about 60 or 65 years ago from their native Africa. The consensus is they arrived in South America then migrated north. Scientists aren’t certain what the whole sequence was, but by the 1950s they were nesting locally.

Why Do they Perch on the back of Mustangs?

What makes the birds interesting is the relationship they seem to have with the mustangs of the Corolla herd.

It’s very common to see a cattle egret perched on the back of horse as it grazes. The horse seems perfectly content with the passenger and for good reason. Cattle egrets eat invertebrates, especially insects and related species.

Those biting flies that everyone hates? If one lands on a mustang it’s like setting a dinner platter for the egret. Tick? A quick snack.

From the mustang’s perspective that has to be a good deal. Cattle egrets weigh in around 10-15 pounds. The Corolla mustangs typically weigh around 800-900 pounds. Other than getting the ticks picked off their bodies, the horses probably barely notice the egret is there.

The Outer Banks is an endlessly fascinating place that calls out to be explored. Let your exploration begin everyday from a Brindley Beach Vacations home.