Ardeidae (bitterns, egrets, herons; class Aves, order Ciconiiformes) A family of long-legged, long-necked, wading birds that have spear-like bills and long toes, the middle toe being pectinate. Many have long, plumed feathers and all have powder-down patches (many egrets (13 species of Egretta) occur in colour phases varying from white to black). They take a variety of animal food, especially fish. Night herons (three species of Nycticorax) are nocturnal. Ardeids nest in trees or reed-beds. There are 17 genera in the family, with 61 species, and they are found in marshy areas and on shores, with cosmopolitan distribution. The 11 species of typical herons comprise the genus Ardea. The four species of bitterns, comprising the genus Botaurus, nest on platforms of reeds and have a loud, booming call. Cochlearius cochlearius (boat-billed heron) is often placed in its own family, Cochleariidae.
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