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Snowy Egret, Egretta thula. Note the chicks in the nest.
Snowy Egret, Egretta thula. Note the chicks in the nest.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Ciconiiformes
Family: Ardeidae
Leach, 1820
See text.
The herons are wading birds in the Ardeidae family. Some are named as egrets or bitterns.Within the family, all members of the genera, Botaurus and Ixobrychus are named as bitterns, not herons and are a definable group within the family.However the egrets are not a biologically distinct group from the herons, and tend to be named differently because they are mainly white or have decorative plumes.The classification of the individual heron species is fraught with difficulty, and there is still no clear consensus about the correct placement of many species into either of the two major genera, Ardea and Egretta. Although herons resemble birds in some other families, such as the storks, ibises and spoonbills, unlike these groups, they fly with their necks retracted, not outstretched.The Boat-billed Heron is sometimes classed as a heron, and sometimes given its own family Cochlearidae.The members of this family are all primarily associated with wetlands, and prey on fish, frogs and other aquatic species. Some, like the Cattle Egret, also take large insects, and are less tied to watery environments. Some members of this group nest colonially in trees, others, notably the bitterns, use reedbeds.In February 2005 the Canadian scientist Dr Louis Lefebvre announced a method of measuring avian IQ in terms of their innovation in feeding habits. Herons were named among the most intelligent birds based on this scale.

Species - Contents

  • Genus Ardea
    • Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
    • Grey Heron, Ardea cinerea
    • Goliath Heron, Ardea goliath
    • Cocoi Heron, Ardea cocoi
    • White-necked Heron or Pacific Heron, Ardea pacifica
    • Black-headed Heron, Ardea melanocephala
    • Madagascar Heron, Ardea humbloti
    • White-bellied Heron, Ardea insignis
    • Great-billed Heron, Ardea sumatrana
    • Purple Heron, Ardea purpurea
    • Great Egret or Great White Egret, Ardea alba
    • Pied Heron, Ardea picata or Egretta picata
    • Intermediate Egret, Ardea intermedia or Egretta intermedia
    • Swinhoe's Egret or Chinese Egret, Ardea eulophotes or Egretta eulophotes
  • Genus Philherodias
    • Capped Heron, Pilherodius pileatus
  • Genus Butorides
    • Green Heron or Green-backed Heron, Butorides virescens
    • Striated Heron, Butorides striatus or Ardea striatus
  • Genus Ardeola
    • Indian Pond Heron, Ardeola grayii
    • Squacco Heron, Ardeola ralloides
    • Chinese Pond Heron, Ardeola bacchus
    • Javan Pond Heron, Ardeola speciosa
    • Madagascar Pond Heron, Ardeola idae
    • Rufous-bellied Heron, Ardeola rufiventris
  • Genus Bubulcus
    • Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis or Ardea ibis
  • Genus Egretta
    • Little Egret, Egretta garzetta or Ardea garzetta
    • Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
    • Reddish Egret, Egretta rufescens
    • Slaty Egret, Egretta vinaceigula
    • Black Heron, Egretta ardesiaca
    • Tricolored Heron or Louisiana Heron, Egretta tricolor
    • White-faced Heron, Egretta novaehollandiae or Ardea novaehollandiae
    • Little Blue Heron, Egretta caerulea
    • Eastern Reef Egret, Egretta sacra or Ardea sacra
    • Western Reef Heron, Egretta gularis
  • Genus Agamia
    • Agami Heron, Agamia agami
  • Genus Tigrisoma
    • Bare-throated Tiger Heron, Tigrisoma mexicanum
    • Fasciated Tiger Heron, Tigrisoma fasciatum
    • Rufescent Tiger Heron, Tigrisoma lineatum
  • Genus Tigriornis
    • White-crested Tiger Heron, Tigriornis leucolophus
  • Genus Zonerodius
    • New Guinea Tiger Heron, Zonerodius heliosylus
  • Genus Zebrilus
    • Zigzag Heron, Zebrilus undulatus
  • Genus Syrigma
    • Whistling Heron, Syrigma sibilatrix
  • Genus Nycticorax
    • Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax violaceus
    • Black-crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax
    • White-backed Night Heron, Nycticorax leuconotus
    • Rodrigues Night-Heron, Nycticorax megacephalus (extinct)
  • Genus Gorsachius
    • Nankeen Night Heron or Rufous Night Heron, Gorsachius melanolophus or Nycticorax caledonicus
    • White-eared Night Heron, Gorsachius magnificus
    • Japanese Night Heron, Gorsachius goisagi
    • Malayan Night Heron, Gorsachius melanolophus
The genera Ixobrychus and Botaurus are the bitterns
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