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Bitterns and herons

Grey heron profile

Image: Steve Round

Small to very large. All have long legs with particularly long toes, useful when wading on soft mud or standing on floating vegetation. 

Wings are broad and rounded, often markedly bowed in flight, and they all have long or very long, sinuous necks and dagger-shaped bills. 

They catch fish and other aquatic creatures by grabbing them in the bill rather than spearing. Many species nest in trees, often in mixed colonies, while bitterns are much more secretive and nest in dense reeds. 

There are many other species worldwide.

Bittern

A thickset heron with all-over bright, pale, buffy-brown plumage covered with dark streaks and bars. It flies on broad, rounded, bowed wings. A secretive bird, very difficult to see, as it moves sile... More...

Bittern

Cattle egret

Slightly smaller but much rarer than the little egret, cattle egrets are visiting the UK in increasing numbers. They often spend time close to livestock and grab insects and worms that their hooves di... More...

Cattle egret

Great white egret

As the name suggests, a large, white heron. Great white egrets can look similar to little egrets, but they are much larger -the same size as the familiar grey heron. Other identification features to l... More...

Great white egret

Grey heron

Grey herons are unmistakeable: tall, with long legs, a long beak and grey, black and white feathering. They can stand with their neck stretched out, looking for food, or hunched down with their neck b... More...

Grey heron

Little egret

The little egret is a small white heron with attractive white plumes on crest, back and chest, black legs and bill and yellow feet. It first appeared in the UK in significant numbers in 1989 and first... More...

Little egret