are herons birds of prey

Taxonomy and systematics editSee also:

Studies on the skeleton, particularly the skull, revealed that the Ardeidae could be divided into two groups: the diurnal group, which comprised the bitterns, and the crepuscular/nocturnal group. Based on DNA research and skeletal analyses that concentrate more on the limbs and body bones, this classification has been shown to be inaccurate. [18] Rather, convergent evolution to address the disparate challenges of daytime and nighttime feeding is reflected in the similarities in skull morphology. Three main groups are thought to be distinguishable today[19][20], and they are as follows:

  • tiger herons and the boatbill
  • bitterns
  • day herons and egrets, and night herons

The night herons might be justified in being divided into the subfamily Nycticoracinae, as has historically been the case. However, the position of some genera (e. g. Currently, however, Butorides or Syrigma) is unknown, and molecular research has been hindered by the limited number of examined taxa up to this point. Particularly, there is a severe lack of resolution in the relationships within the subfamily Ardeinae. The arrangement presented here should be considered provisional.

According to a 2008 study, this family is Pelecaniformes related. [21] The International Ornithological Congress reclassified the sister taxa Threskiornithidae and Ardeidae under the order Pelecaniformes rather than the previous order Ciconiiformes in response to these findings. [22].


Tigriornis – white-crested tiger heron

Tigrisoma – tiger herons (3 species)


Cochlearius – boat-billed heron


Agamia – agami heron


Zebrilus – zigzag heron

Botaurus – bitterns (6 species)

Ixobrychus – bitterns (8 species of which 1 extinct)


Gorsachius – night herons (4 species)

Calherodius – night herons (2 species)

Pilherodius – capped heron

Syrigma – whistling heron

Egretta – herons and egrets (13 species)

Nyctanassa – night herons (2 species of which 1 extinct)

Nycticorax – night herons (6 species of which 4 extinct)

Butorides – herons (3 species)

Ardeola – pond herons (6 species)

Ardea – herons and egrets (14 species, including cattle egrets)

The IOC lists 72 species as of July 2023, broken down into 18 genera. [22].

  • Subfamily Tigriornithinae Genus Taphophoyx Three species of typical tiger herons (Genus Tigrisoma) and the white-crested tiger heron (Genus Tigriornis) fossilized in the Late Miocene of Levy County, Florida
  • Subfamily Cochleariinae
    • Genus Cochlearius – boat-billed heron
  • Subfamily Agamiinae
    • Genus Agamia – Agami heron
  • The subfamily Botaurinae contains the zigzag heron Genus Zebrilus, small bitterns (eight living species, one recently extinct), large bitterns (four species), and Saint Bathans bittern (fossil, Early Miocene of Otago, New Zealand).
  • Subfamily Ardeinae Genus Zeltornis (fossil, Early Miocene of Djebel Zelten, Libya) Genus Nycticorax – typical night herons (two living species, four recently extinct; sometimes includes Nyctanassa) Genus Nyctanassa – American night herons (one living species, one recently extinct) Genus Gorsachius – Asian and African night herons (three species; occasionally included in Ardea) Genus Butorides – green-backed herons (three species; occasionally included in Ardea) Genus Bubulcus – cattle egrets (one or two species, sometimes included in Ardea) Genus Proardea (fossil) Genus Ardea – typical herons (11–17 species) Genus Syrigma – whistling heron Genus Egretta – typical egrets (7–13 species) Genus undetermined Easter Island et sp. indet. (prehistoric).
  • “Anas” basaltica (Late Oligocene of Varnsdorf, Czech Republic)
  • Ardeagradis
  • Proardeola – possibly same as Proardea
  • Matuku (Early Miocene of Otago, New Zealand)

Additional fossil and prehistoric species are listed in the corresponding genus accounts. Furthermore, Proherodius is a controversial fossil that has been divided into two categories: a heron and a member of the Presbyornithidae family of long-legged waterfowl that is extinct. It has only been identified from a sternum; the tarsometatarsus that has been attributed to it actually originates from the paleognath Lithornis vulturinus.

Description edit The neck of this

Large to medium-sized birds with long necks and legs are called herons. They exhibit very little sexual dimorphism in size. The dwarf bittern, which is typically thought to be the smallest species, is 25–30 cm (10–12 in) long. However, all of the species in the genus Ixobrychus are small, with many having sizes that roughly overlap. With a height of up to 152 cm (60 in), the goliath heron is the largest species of heron. The cervical vertebrae’s altered shape, of which they have 20–21, allows the necks to bend in an S shape. Unlike most other long-necked birds, the neck can retract and extend, and it does so during flight. Day herons have longer necks than night herons and bitterns. With the exception of the zigzag heron, almost all species have strong, long legs that protrude from the lower portion of the tibia without feathers. In flight, the legs and feet are held backwards. Heron feet are characterized by long, thin toes, three of which point forward and one of which points backward. [7] The.

The bill is generally long and harpoon-like. It can range in thickness from the grey heron to the incredibly fine agami heron. The boat-billed heron has the most unusual bill; it is thick and broad. The color of the bill and other exposed body parts is typically yellow, black, or brown, though it can change during the breeding season. The broad, long wings have 12 rectrices (10 in the bitterns), 15–20 secondaries, and 10 or 11 primary feathers (the boat-billed heron has only nine). The plumage of herons is typically blue, black, brown, grey, or white, with soft feathers that are frequently remarkably complex. With the exception of pond herons, day herons exhibit little sexual dimorphism in their plumage; night herons and smaller bitterns typically exhibit gender differences. Many species also have different colour morphs. [7] There are dark and light color morphs of the Pacific reef heron, and the proportion of each morph varies with location. White morphs only occur in areas with coral beaches. [8].

Reproduction, Young, and Molting

are herons birds of prey

Like other herons, the Hawaiian Black Crowned Night Heron builds its nest in a colony of nests known as heronries or rookeries.

Depending on the species, reproductive tactics can differ, but during the breeding season, the male typically uses an amazing courtship display to entice a single mate by fluffing his feathers and swooping around. Up to seven eggs can be produced at once by the pair after the female has selected a suitable partner.

These birds build a substantial stick platform in trees, cliffs, or bushes. These nests are a component of bigger colonies known as rookeries or heronries.

The eggs hatch into undeveloped bodies when the chicks have been incubated for a few weeks. To guarantee that their offspring develop appropriately, both parents devote a substantial amount of time to their upbringing. They share incubation, nest construction, and feeding duties. Because they have the best chance of surviving, the parents usually feed the largest chicks the most.

Typically, it takes two to three months for the chicks to fully develop their flight feathers and gain greater independence. In the wild, most of these chicks don’t make it past their first year of life, but those that do typically have a lifespan of 15 or 20 years.