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Abstract Heron Leif Sohlman
Photograph - Photo Photography
Abstract heron Enk�ping, Sweden, summer 2014.
Canon 5D mk III
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 or have decorative plumes. Although egrets have the same build as 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. However, one species formerly considered to constitute a separate monotypic family Cochlearidae, the Boat-billed Heron, is now regarded as a member of the Ardeidae.
Although herons resemble birds in some other families, such as the storks, ibises, spoonbills and cranes, they differ from these in flying with their necks retracted, not outstretched. They are also one of the bird groups that have powder down. Some members of this group nest colonially in trees, while others, notably the bitterns, use reedbeds.
The word heron appears to be very old and of uncertain origin. It may derive from the Latin aerius meaning aerial. Herons are also known as "shitepokes" /ˈʃaɪtpoʊk/, or euphemistically as "shikepokes" or "shypokes". Webster's Dictionary suggests that herons were given this name because of their habit of defecating when flushed. The terms "shitepoke" or "shikepoke" can be used as insults in a number of situations. For example, the term "shikepoke" appears in the 1931 play Green Grow the Lilacs, and in the 1943 musical play Oklahoma!.
The 1971 Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary describes the use of "shitepoke" for the small green heron of North America (Butorides virescens) as originating in the United States, citing a published example from 1853. The OED also observes that "shiterow" or "shederow" are terms used for herons, and also applied as derogatory terms meaning a "thin weakly person". This name for a heron is found in a list of gamebirds in a royal decree of James VI (1566�1625) of Scotland. The OED speculates that "shiterow" is a corruption of "shiteheron".
Another former name was heronshaw. Corrupted to handsaw, this name appears in Shakespeare's Hamlet
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