Family XXXVIII. ARDEINAE. HERONS.
Bill longer than the head, stout, tapering, compressed, pointed, its edges often irregularly serrate. Head oblong, compressed; neck very long; body much compressed. Eyes large or moderate. Nostrils basal, linear, longitudinal. Legs long, rather slender; tibia bare to a great extent; tarsus compressed, anteriorly scutellate; toes rather long, the first on the same place, of moderate size, the outer toe a little longer than the inner, and with a slight web at the base; all compressed and scutellate. Claws rather long, arched, compressed, acute, that of the hind toe larger and more curved. Plumage blended. Wings long, very broad, with the outer four quills longest, secondaries very long. Tail very short, nearly even, of twelve rather weak feathers. OEsophagus very wide, without dilatation; stomach small, very thin, with the inner coat soft and smooth; intestine very long and extremely narrow; no coecal appendages, but the large intestine forming a small sac at its commencement; cloaca very large, globular. Trachea simple, generally cylindrical, with the bronchi wide, and a single pair of slender inferior laryngeal muscles. Nests large, flat, widely constructed, placed on trees, bushes, sometimes on the ground; eggs from three to four, oval, light blue. Young remain in the nest until fledged.