Herons are medium to large sized birds with long legs and necks. They exhibit very little sexual dimorphism in size. The smallest species is probably the Little Bittern, which can measure under one foot in length and the largest species of Heron is the Goliath Heron, which stand up to 5 feet in height.
The bill is generally long and harpoon like. It can vary from extremely fine, as in the Agami Heron, to thick as in the Grey Heron. The most typical bill is like the one on the Boat-billed Heron, which is broad abd thick. The bill, as well as other bare parts of the body, is usually yellow, black or brown coloured, although this color can vary during the breeding season. The wings are broad and long, exhibiting 10-11 primaries feathers. The feathers of Herons are soft and the plumage is usually blue, black, brown, grey or white, and can often be strikingly complex.
An Egret is any of several Herons, most of which are white or buff, and several of which develop fine plumes (usually milky white) during the breeding season. Many Egrets are members of the genera Egretta or Ardea which also contain other species named as Herons rather than Egrets. The distinction between a Heron and an Egret is rather vague, and depends more on appearance than biology. The word "egret" comes from the French word "aigrette" that means both "silver heron" and "brush," referring to the long filamentous feathers that seem to cascade down an Egret's back during the breeding season.
Several Egrets have been reclassified from one genus to another in recent years: the Great Egret, for example, has been classified as a member of either Casmerodius, Egretta or Ardea. Egrets typically frequent marshes, lakes, humid forests, and other wetland environments. They are wading birds and catch small fishes, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and crustaceans in shallow waters. They build large, untidy nests in trees and bushes or on the ground.
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