Silhouette of a great egret in flight

Herons, egrets and bitterns

Herons, egrets and bitterns are supreme hunters of fish and other small aquatic prey. Their long necks and strong beaks are capable of delivering a quick, powerful and quite deadly lunge. The preferred method of hunting is to wait patiently at the water's edge or stand in shallow water waiting for prey to come into range, although some take a more active approach, kicking around in the water. In shallow water, their long legs give these birds a considerable advantage over their prey. This is a globally distributed family of wading water birds that breeds on every continent except Antarctica.

Scientific name: Ardeidae

Rank: Family

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Map showing the distribution of the Herons, egrets and bitterns taxa

The shading illustrates the diversity of this group - the darker the colour the greater the number of species. Data provided by WWF's Wildfinder.

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The following habitats are found across the Herons, egrets and bitterns distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.


Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web

BBC News about Herons, egrets and bitterns