[5], Herons are members of the family Ardeidae, and the majority of extant species are in the subfamily Ardeinae and known as true or typical herons. On the whole, the eggs are glossy blue or white, with the exception being the large bitterns, which lay olive-brown eggs. They are predominantly found in lowland areas, although some species live in alpine areas, and the majority of species occurs in the tropics. [3], In addition to sitting and waiting, herons may feed more actively. [10] In Ireland, the grey heron is often colloquially called a "crane". "[2], The herons are medium- to large-sized birds with long legs and necks. The OED also observes that shiterow or shederow are terms used for herons, and also applied as derogatory terms meaning a thin, weakly person. Members of the genera Botaurus and Ixobrychus are referred to as bitterns, and, together with the zigzag heron, or zigzag bittern, in the monotypic genus Zebrilus, form a monophyletic group within the Ardeidae. 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 in breeding plumage. Both birds incubate the eggs for around 25 days, and then both feed the chicks, which fledge when 7-8 weeks old. There are several different types, including egrets, bitterns, and night Herons. [6] The wings may be used to frighten prey (or possibly attract it to shade) or to reduce glare; the most extreme example of this is exhibited by the black heron, which forms a full canopy with its wings over its body. The neck is able to retract and extend and is retracted during flight, unlike most other long-necked birds. Individual species may be generalists or specialise in certain prey types, such as the yellow-crowned night heron, which specialises in crustaceans, particularly crabs. Only about a third of juveniles survive into their second year, many falling victim to predation. A 2008 study suggests that this family belongs to the Pelecaniformes. Food. Most of the birds in zoos are there because they are important members of conservation breeding programs, or because they cannot survive in the wild. [20] In response to these findings, the International Ornithological Congress recently reclassified Ardeidae and their sister taxa Threskiornithidae under the order Pelecaniformes instead of the previous order of Ciconiiformes.[21]. Some species are solitary outside of the breeding season, and hunt alone. For the appointment of George Neville as Archbishop of York in 1465, 400 herons were served to the guests. Males arrive first and begin the building of the nest, where they display to attract females. Nesting. [4], Small fish are swallowed head first, and larger prey and eels are carried to the shore where they are subdued by being beaten on the ground or stabbed by the bill. Many species also hunt in drier areas, and feed on snakes, lizards, small birds, mice, rats, and more. They are then swallowed, or have hunks of flesh torn off. Instead, we will highlight a few magnificent species and their unique traits. Just like with any other species that eats lots of fish, these birds have foul smelling poop. Young birds were still being shot and eaten in Romney Marsh in 1896. Analyses of the skeleton, mainly the skull, suggested that the Ardeidae could be split into a diurnal and a crepuscular/nocturnal group which included the bitterns. In a study of little egrets and cattle egrets in India, the majority of the colonies surveyed contained both species. The bird regurgitates pellets of indigestible material such as fur, bones and the chitinous remains of insects. Their legs are a yellow color, like that of the great blue heron, so this is not what we saw. Humans also hunt them, kill them for eating commercially valuable fish, and accidentally tangle them in fishing line or nets. This is characteristic of herons and bitterns, and distinguishes them from storks, cranes, and spoonbills, which extend their necks. [2] The body weight can range from 1.02–2.08 kg (2.2–4.6 lb). Many juveniles do not survive their first winter, but if they do, they can expect to live for about 5 years. Roast heron was once a specially prized dish; when George Neville became Archbishop of York in 1465, 400 herons were served to the guests. [3], Courtship usually takes part on the nest. [5] Many species also opportunistically take larger prey, including birds and bird eggs, rodents, and more rarely carrion. Adults have the head and neck white with a broad black supercilium that terminates in the slender, dangling crest, and bluish-black streaks on the front of the neck. The smallest species is usually considered the dwarf bittern, which measures 25–30 cm (9.8–11.8 in) in length, although all the species in the genus Ixobrychus are small and many broadly overlap in size. By seven million years ago (the late Miocene), birds closely resembling modern forms and attributable to modern genera had appeared. [7], Some species of heron, such as the little egret and grey heron, have been documented using bait to lure prey to within striking distance. The adult birds do not usually leave the nest unattended, but may be lured away by marauding crows or kites. It is replaced by A. c. jouyi in eastern Siberia, Mongolia, eastern China, Hainan, Japan, and Taiwan. From DNA studies and skeletal analyses focusing more on bones of body and limbs, this grouping has been revealed as incorrect. The members of this family are mostly associated with wetlands and water, and feed on a variety of live aquatic prey. [4], The grey heron has a slow flight, with its long neck retracted (S-shaped). Great blue herons will eat almost anything within striking distance of their long beak. Although most common in the lowlands, it also occurs in mountain tarns, lakes, reservoirs, large and small rivers, marshes, ponds, ditches, flooded areas, coastal lagoons, estuaries, and the sea shore. Tropical herons typically have only one breeding season per year, unlike some other tropical birds which may raise up to three broods a year. Their clutches normally contain between three and five eggs on average, though this varies by species. However, the position of some genera (e.g. These birds live across a wide expanse of the globe, and throughout that range they inhabit a wide variety of habitats. Webster's Dictionary suggests that herons were given this name because of their habit of defecating when flushed. The exception to this is the boat-billed heron, which pairs up away from the nesting site. Different species live across Eurasia, Africa, Australia and the surrounding islands, North America, Central America, and South America.

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