Difference Between Heron and Egret (with Table)

Egret and heron both are long-legged birds. They belong to the same ardeidae family and look almost the same, but there are few very distinct features under which they can be differentiated. Both the birds prefer lowland areas, margins of rivers, lakes, and ponds and they are aquatic birds.

These birds are mostly found in the tropical climate. Apart from the extremely cold climates, the birds are found everywhere. Egrets are a type of heron. It is white and during the breeding season, they develop ornamental nuptial plumes. They often like to perform elaborate mating displays involving the plumes.

Herons have a distinct s-shaped neck. While flying their leg trails loosely and the head is held back against the body. Herons have sharp wings, long straight pointed bills.

The difference between heron and egret is their height. Typically the egrets are smaller birds in comparison to herons. But there are also few breeds of egrets that are larger than the herons. Also, egrets have black legs with a white-phase whereas herons’ legs are more lightly colored.

Comparison Table Between Heron and Egret

Parameter of ComparisonHeronEgret
Biological NameArdeidaeAdea alba
GeneraThere are around 21 generaThere are 4 genera
LegsThey have lighter legsThey have black legs with white-phase
HeightUsually tallerConsiderably shorter than heron
BeakThey have heavier beaksThey have lighter beaks

What is Heron?

Heron is long-legged and long-necked birds. They reside in both freshwater and coast. They belong to the family of ardeidae along with 64 other recognized species like egrets and bitterns. These birds do not swim.

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The smallest size of the heron is dwarf bittern which measures around 25-30 cm in length and the largest one is goliath heron which is around 152 cm tall. The neck of these birds can bend in an s-shape, this is because they have 6 vertebrates in their neck.  Their neck t retracts and extends during the flight.

Herons are a huge family of birds with a cosmopolitan distribution. They are found in all the countries except Antarctica, apart from the extreme cold places herons are found everywhere.

Three are almost 21 genera of herons namely- cochlearius, taphophoyx, tigrisoma, tigriornis, zonerodius, zebrilus, lxobrychus, botaurus, pikaihao, zeltornis, nycticorax, nyctanassa, gorsachius, butorides, agamia, pilherodius, ardeola, bubulcus, proardea, ardea, syrigma and egretta

Herons are highly mobile birds, most of them are partially migratory. These birds often migrate after breeding. They migrate in search of new feeding places and reduce pressure in the nearby areas where they have been around.  They mostly migrate at night.

Heron 1

What is Egret?

Egrets are a type of heron. They have white and buff plumage. During the breeding seasons, they develop fine plumes usually milky white. Term egret has been derived from the French word “aigrette” which means “silver heron” and “brush” referring back to the long filamentous feathers (plumes) that are seen in the egrets back.

Egrets are also a member of the genera egretta or ardea. In the 19th century and early 20th century, few of the species of egret were under the endangered category due to the merciless hunting of them for their plumes for the making of hats and premium clothing in Europe and the US.

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Egrets prefer environments such as streams, lakes, humid forests, and other wetland environments. They prefer consuming small fishes, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. They build their nests in an untidy manner either on the trees or bushes on the ground.

egret

Main Differences Between Heron and Egret

  1. The biological name for heron is “ardeidae” whereas the biological name for egret is “adea alba”.
  2. Three are almost 21 genera of herons namely- cochlearius, taphophoyx, tigrisoma, tigriornis, zonerodius, zebrilus, lxobrychus, botaurus, pikaihao, zeltornis, nycticorax, nyctanassa, gorsachius, butorides, agamia, pilherodius, ardeola, bubulcus, proardea, ardea, syrigma, and egretta whereas there are only 4 genera of egret namely- egretta, ardea, bubulcus and mesophoyx.
  3. He herons have lighter legs, on the other hand, the egrets have black legs with white phase.
  4. Heron is considerably taller where for egrets most of their breeds are usually compact and smaller in height. They have short legs and thicker necks. But there are always exceptions in both cases.
  5. Herons usually have heavier beaks in comparison to egrets.
  6. Egrets are a type of heron and are under them.

Conclusion

Herons and egrets both are long-legged birds that belong to the similar ardeidae family. Egrets are a type of herons. Though both these birds look very similar to each other they can be distinguished under few factors such as biological name, genera, height, legs, and beak.

Herons are long-necked and long-legged birds. They reside in freshwaters and coast. They have a unique s-shaped neck. Herons do not swim. These birds can be found anywhere apart from the extreme cold places such as the Arctic and the Antarctic’s. They are migratory birds and most of them partially migrate to a new land after breeding.

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Egrets are a type of heron. They have white buff plumage, and during the breeding seasons, they develop plumes usually white in color. Due to these plumes during the 19h century and the early 20th-century certain species of egrets were listed under the endangered category. They were hunted upon for making hats and premium clothing in Europe and the US.

References

  1. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1086/305222/meta
  2. http://adsabs.harvard.edu/full/1996ApJ…461..396M7
  3. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=fvuChpvgVZAC&oi=fnd&pg=PR8&dq=heron&ots=6t3V6QGMgP&sig=Yk-WcdKSkWjP_zXFP4fby7DGAM0