(1. Ardea, Steph). * A large portion of the tibia naked; tarsi long.
General plumage bluish ash: middle toe, claw included, much shorter than the tarsus.
A. cinerea, Temm. Man. d'Orn. torn. II. p. 567. Common Heron, Mont. Orn. Did. and Supp. Selb. Illust. vol. II. p. 11. pl. 2. Heron, Bew. Brit. Birds, vol. 11. p. 9.
Entire length three feet two inches nine lines; length of the bill (from the forehead) four inches seven lines, (from the gape) five inches eleven lines; of the tarsus five inches eight lines; of the naked part of the tibia two inches eight lines; of the middle toe three inches ten lines; of the tail eight inches; from the carpus to the end of the wing one foot five inches seven lines: breadth, wings extended, five feet six inches.
(Adult, after the age of three years). A pendent crest of narrow, elongated, black feathers at the back of the head: forehead, crown, neck, middle of the breast, belly, edge of the wing, thighs, and under tail-coverts, pure white; fore part of the neck with large longitudinal black spots; the feathers towards the bottom loose and very much elongated, falling over the breast in an elegant manner: occiput, sides of the breast, and flanks, deep black: back and wings of a fine bluish gray: quills black: scapulars long and pointed, forming graceful plumes of a silvery gray colour: tail bluish ash: bill deep yellow: irides bright gamboge-yellow: lore, and naked skin round the eyes, greenish: feet brown; the naked part of the tibia red. (Young, and until the age of three years). Occipital crest very short, almost wanting: without the long plumes on the scapulars and lower part of the neck: forehead and crown cinereous; throat white; neck pale ash-colour, inclining to whitish underneath, with large longitudinal dusky spots: rest of the upper parts bluish ash; ridge of the wing spotted with white and reddish brown; quills of a deep bluish black: breast, belly, and vent, white, spotted with black: upper mandible dusky brown, variegated with yellowish spots; lower mandible wholly yellow: irides yellow: lore and orbits greenish yellow: feet dark ash-colour; the lower part of the tibia yellowish. (Egg). Of a uniform sea-green: long. diam. two inches three lines; trans, diam. one inch nine lines.
A common and generally distributed species. Congregates in large societies during the breeding season, building on the loftiest trees. At other times of the year, of rather solitary habits, residing principally in marshy districts, or in the neighbourhood of streams and rivers. Feeds principally on fish and small reptiles. Lays three or four eggs.