The herons are long-legged freshwater and coastal birds in the family Ardeidae, with 64 recognised species (some are called 'egrets' or 'bitterns' instead of 'heron'). Within Ardeidae, all members of the genera Botaurus and Ixobrychus are referred to as 'bitterns', and including the Zigzag Heron or Zigzag Bittern are a monophyletic group within the Ardeidae. However, egrets are not a biologically distinct group from the herons, and tend to be named differently because they are mainly white and/or have decorative plumes. Although egrets have the same build as the larger herons, they tend to be smaller. The classification of the individual heron/egret species is fraught with difficulty, and there is still no clear consensus about the correct placement of many species into either of the two major genera, Ardea and Egretta. Similarly, the relationship of the genera in the family is not completely resolved.
Contributions by Jimfbleak, Dysmorodrepanis, and Filll.