Any wading bird of the genus Ardea and allied genera, of the family Ardeidæ. The herons have a long, sharp bill, and long legs and toes, with the claw of the middle toe toothed. The common European heron (Ardea cinerea) is remarkable for its directly ascending flight, and was formerly hunted with the larger falcons.
Many of the long-legged wading birds living in the marshes of saltwater lagoons, freshwater lakes, and rivers are herons. Included in the heron family, Ardeidae, are bitterns, boatbills, and egrets. The word egret usually refers to the beautiful white-plumed birds. They are famous for the long plumes, or aigrettes, that are worn by the males during the breeding season. Herons and egrets are expert fishermen. They stand like statues in the water until their keen eyes discover a fish swimming by. Then, at exactly the right instant, with one sudden jab of the bill, they seize their prey. Sometimes they stalk slowly through the shallow water, lifting each foot clear and setting it down again so gently that no ripple warns the fish or frog.