I took this photo of a snow egret mating display in High Island, Texas, at the Audubon Society’s Smith Oaks Rookery, on May 17, 2014, two months after most of the other birds had already paired up.  I was somewhat taken aback by this and asked a friend who is far more knowledgeable about birds, “Isn’t this a little late in the season for such displays?”  His reply surprised me. “In colonies (like Smith Oaks) thousands of nests and adults are clustered among the trees on the spoil islands. Most snowy egrets are nesting and laying eggs. Young adults often nest late. This Snowy still has opportunities to be a father.”

“With so much genetic material available for mixing just feet away in a colonial nesting situation, there isn’t a lot of fidelity. Nesting parents mix their DNA with other adults. Males continue to display to impress their mates and get them to ovulate, but also for the opportunity of impressing one of the neighbors. Some males may have failed at nesting, but may get a chance to mate (and not have to build the nest).”

“Most colonial waterbird females lay 2-4 eggs sequentially 1-2 days apart. The first egg and probably the second will be fathered by the mate she chose to build the nest. But at least one or two eggs will be fathered by one or two other fathers. Multiple paternity of a clutch holds true with nearly all bird species but especially for colonial nesters (e.g. geese, gulls, herons, egrets).”

Taken with the Nikon D4S and 800mm f5.6 Nikkor with a 2x teleconverter from about 50 meters.