Ardeidae is one of my favorite families of birds. They are elegant in form and motion, come in beautifully simple color schemes, and display admirable patience, focus and chilling speed as waterside hunters. Depending on the species, they can be ubiquitous or shy--delighting birders with their familiar presence and highly visible behavior, or with the excitement of spotting a rare and secretive species. The smaller bitterns are members of the monophyletic genera Botaurus and Ixobrychus, while "heron" is the appropriate catch-all term for the other genera in the family. An "egret" is simply a heron that grows lacy display plumes for the breeding season. During the 19th century, demand for egret plumes to be used in (honestly ridiculous) hats like this one archive.audubonmagazine.org/fe… nearly led to the extinction of several species; during the height of their fashion, egret feathers were worth more than their weight in gold!