garza (Ardeidae) is the common name of the members of the family Ardeidae, big birds waders found in most temperate regions but are more numerous in tropical and subtropical areas. The heron is classified within the Chordata phylum, Vertebrata subphylum, Aves class, Ciconiiformes order, Ardeidae family.

Heron fishing

A proud heron fishing

Family

The ardeids are subdivided into four subfamilies and nineteen genera, some discussed:

  • Subfamily Tigrisomatinae
    • Tigrisoma (3 species)
    • Tigriornis
    • Zonerodius
    • Agamia (1 species)
  • Subfamily Cochleariinae
    • Cochlearius
  • Subfamily Botaurinae
    • Zebrilus
    • Ixobrychus (8 living species, 1 recently extinct)
    • Botaurus (4 species)
  • Subfamily Ardeinae
    • Gorsachius (3 to 5 species)
    • Nycticorax (2 to 4 living species, 5 recently extinct)
    • In Nyctana
    • Butorides (3 species; sometimes included in Ardea)
    • Ardeola (6 species)
    • Bubulcus (1 or 2 species; sometimes included in Ardea)
    • Ardea (11 to 17 species)
    • Chionididae
    • Syrigma (1 species)
    • Egretta (12 or 13 species, according to authors)

Features

The heron uses its keen vision, hearing, and sense of touch to perceive its surroundings. They have an especially sharp vision that helps them catch prey. They have an elaborate set of calls and body postures that they use to communicate with other herons. Examples are their elaborate courtship displays, warning calls when a predator is detected, and territorial displays.

Unlike cranes, which fly with their heads extended forward, the heron flies with their necks bent back over their shoulders. Its plumage is soft and down and, especially in the breeding season, there may be long and showy feathers on the head, chest and back giving it a much more elegant and striking appearance.

Habitat

The heron lives near fresh and salty waters, from open coasts, swamps, swamps, riverbanks and lakes to goldfish ponds in the backyard of a house. They also feed on grasslands and agricultural fields. Breeding birds gather in colonies or "herons" to build stick nests high in the ground.

Great blue herons include large and small blue herons, green herons, yellow crowned herons, and black crowned night herons (the latter also known as night herons, for their cry), and the Louisiana heron, named by Audubon "The lady of the waters." The Florida great white heron, slightly larger (125 cm long) than the great blue heron, is a striking bird that is sometimes mistaken for the American heron. Other great white herons are common in Africa. The European night heron ranges as far as India and North Africa. The rare shoe-billed heron (or stork, a misnomer) is found along the White Nile and the boat-billed heron in tropical America.

Food

Herons typically feed themselves, patiently stalking their prey (small fish and other aquatic animals) in streams and swamps, then stabbing them with their sharp, serrated beaks. Most herons perch and nest in large colonies called herons; others are gregarious only during the breeding season; and some are completely lonely. Nests vary from a wooded platform of twigs high up in a tree to a voluminous mass of weeds and reeds built into the ground among the reeds of the swamp.

Reproduction

The heron forms mating pairs each breeding season. Courtship displays are elaborate and consist of a specific series of displays. They begin with exhibits that resemble natural flight, but geared toward breeding sites with emergency calls. This is followed by a dance of pursuit flights followed by circle flight where they squawk and expose the red line of the mouth. Next come the Twisted Neck Flight screens, where he's partially flexed, his legs dangling, and the wingbeats make a noticeable sound. Like the Twisted Neck Display, the Flap Flight Display is more intense. Here the male staggers through the air with exaggerated flapping sounding in a crooked neck posture with erect crest feathers, neck and shoulders and often making a call before landing.

Exhibits that do not involve flight also occur while posing. The male perches, then points his body, head and neck down until the tip of his beak is at or below the level of his legs and then engages his mouth, producing a clicking sound at the same time that he erects his feathers.

The stretching display involves the male heron pointing its beak upward, stretching its long neck, and then bending it back until the head almost touches its back with the shoulder feathers erect and fanned. In this pose, it moves its neck and head from side to side with the crest, chest, and flank feathers smooth back, bulging eyes, and iris possibly changing from yellow to deep orange while making a sound.

Males perform this stretch display before the female is allowed to enter the nest area. The female then silently performs a less intense stretch after the male, confirming the pair bond. Then the feathers are nibbled and the beak is broken.

The heron lays 2 to 4 eggs in a nest at intervals of approximately two days. The eggs are incubated for 19 to 21 days, the young hatch at 16 to 17 days and become independent at 30 to 35 days.

The nests are built in vegetation close to the water, from ground level to 20 meters high. The preferred place to nest is a branch in a tree. Nesting pairs normally nest alone, but sometimes nest in small colonies.

Predators

Crows have been reported to feed on the eggs of herons. Eagles, raccoons, bears, turkey vultures, and red-tailed hawks prey on young birds and sometimes even adults. The birds often leave a rookery where they have been living after a predator has killed an adult or chick in the area.

Nesting in colonies is one way to avoid predation by great blue herons. If a heron nests within a large group, there are many more eyes and ears to watch out for predators. Furthermore, the probability that a particular nest is pre-dated decreases significantly when there is a high density of nests.

State of conservation

It ranks among least concern due to environmental factors subjected and its high level of reproduction.

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