General plumage reddish ash, inclining to purple: middle toe, claw included, as long as, or longer than the tarsus.
A. purpurea, Temm. Man. d'Orn. torn. 11. p. 570. Crested Purple Heron, Lath. Syn. vol. III. p. 95. Shaw, Zool. vol. xi. p. 556. Selb. Illust. vol. 11. p. 15. pl. 3.
Entire length two feet eleven inches: length of the bill (from the forehead) four inches eight lines, (from the gape) five inches seven lines; of the tarsus four inches seven lines; of the naked part of the tibia two inches seven lines; of the middle toe, claw included, four inches nine lines; from the carpus to the end of the wing thirteen inches eight lines.
(Adult in perfect plumage). Crown, and occipital crest, black, with green reflections; throat white; cheeks, and sides of the neck, reddish brown, with three longitudinal narrow black bands, two lateral reaching from the eyes to the breast, the third commencing at the nape and running down the back of the neck for two-thirds of its length: front of the neck variegated with red, black, and purple; the feathers on the lower part long and acuminated, of a purplish white colour: back, wings, and tail, reddish ash; scapulars long and subulate as in the last species, of a rich brilliant purple red: breast and flanks of a deep brownish red, tinged with purple; belly and thighs red: bill and orbits bright yellow: irides yellowish orange: soles of the feet, posterior part of the tarsus, and naked space on the tibia, yellow; fore part of the tarsus, and upper surface of the toes, greenish brown. (Immature plumage). No occipital crest, or simply a few red feathers somewhat longer than the others: without the long subulate plumes on the lower part of the neck and scapulars: forehead black; nape and cheeks pale red; throat white; fore part of the neck, and sides of the breast, yellowish white, with numerous longitudinal black spots: back, wings, and tail, dusky ash, all the feathers edged with reddish ash: belly and thighs whitish: a large portion of the upper mandible dusky; lower mandible, orbits, and irides, pale yellow. (Egg). Pale asparagus-green: long, diam. two inches four lines; trans, diam. one inch seven lines.
A very rare, and only occasional visitant in this country. Has been killed in Berkshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, and in one or two other parts of the kingdom. A specimen is also said to have flown on board a fishing boat off the coast of Cornwall in May 1822, and to have been taken. Frequents the same kind of situations as the last species. Food similar. Is said to breed amongst reeds and thick underwood, rarely in trees. Lays three eggs. Obs. The African Heron of Montagu's Ornithological Dictionary (A. Caspica, Gmel). is this species in immature plumage.
Syst. Nat. torn. I. p. 239. Great White Heron, Mont. Orn. Diet. & Supp. Selb. Illust. vol. II. p. 18. A. Egretta, Temm. Man. d'Orn. torn. II. p. 572. White Heron, Penn. Brit. Zool. vol. ii. p. 427. pl. 62.
Recorded as a British species by Ray. Asserted by Latham, on the authority of Dr Heysham, to have been shot in Cumberland: supposed also to have been seen in Devonshire and Suffolk. There is, however, no well authenticated instance of its having been met with in this country of late years, nor any British-killed specimen in existence. It is distinguished by its pure white plumage, greenish yellow bill, and long slender legs: the adult, in the breeding season, possesses an occipital crest and long dorsal plumes like the next species. Is common in some of the eastern parts of Europe. Food and habits resembling those of its congeners.