Ardea Linn., Syst. Nat., 10th ed., i, p. 143 (175S).
Type by orig. desig., Ardea cinerea Linn.
In Ardea the bill is long, compressed and pointed, the culmen straight and the edges of both mandibles slightly serrated at the commissure; the upper mandible is grooved on each side, the rather long nostrils being placed near the base ; the sides of the head to behind the eye are naked; the tibia is semi-nude ; the tarsus long and scutellated in front; the wings are ample but rounded; the tail is short and nearly square ; the feathers at the base of the neck and on the scapulars long and attenuated, forming ornamental plumes; head crested; lower plumage very lax and soft.
The genus is cosmopolitan, five species occurring in India-Sharpe placed the Purple Heron in a separate genus, Phoyx, on account of its rather larger feet but I follow Blanford and retain it in Ardea. In the same way other systematists have placed each of the other species in different genera, none of which seem necessary and are therefore undesirable.
Key to Species.
A. Mid-toe and claw as long as, or longer than, the tarsus; crown and crest black……………..A. purpurea, p. 337.
B. Mid-toe and claw shorter than tarsus.
a. Crown of head white in adult; crest black…………….. A. cinerea, p. 339.
b. Crown and crest grey in adults.
a1. Abdomen and flanks grey ……………..A. sumatrana, p. 341
b1. Abdomen and flanks white……………..A. imperialis, p. 342.
c. Crown and crest chestnut……………..A. goliath, p. 343.