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Herons, Egrets and Bitterns

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Herons, Egrets and Bitterns

Their Biology and Conservation in Australia

Australian Natural History Series

Neil McKilligan   University of Southern Queensland

Colour photographs, Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
144 pages
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing

This book is no longer available in print.

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This is the first book to deal exclusively with the Australian members of the Family Ardeidae (herons, egrets and bitterns). It gives a comprehensive, easy-to-read account of their origins, classification and biology, and explains the features that distinguish them from other birds.

The book devotes a major chapter to the 14 Australian species, covering their distribution and movements, feeding, breeding, population dynamics and conservation. Some of Australia’s herons have become very scarce in the southern half of the continent and are at risk of national or local extinction. In northern Australia heron habitats and resources are largely pristine and consequently this region accommodates large numbers of certain species.

A final chapter on population and conservation provides a useful summary of the present status of the Australian herons, some of whom are thriving and others who are in a very precarious position.


  • ‘Thumbnail’ sketches of 14 Australian species highlight their special features.
  • Boxed sidelights provide detail on some notable features of the birds’ biology.
  • A special chapter covers six species that are ‘occasional visitors’ to Australia.
  • Colour photographs of these elegant and sometimes extravagantly plumaged birds.

1 Herons of the world
2 What makes herons different?
3 The importance of herons
4 Distribution, movements and longevity
5 Feeding and food
6 Breeding
7 Population numbers and conservation
8 Species resident in Australia
9 Occasional visitors

  • All those interested in Australian natural history
  • Amateur and professional ornithologists
  • Upper-secondary level students and undergraduate students

 "I found every chapter interesting and the whole book an enjoyable read."
Greg P. Clancy, Australian Zoologist, Vol. 33, Vol. 2, December 2005

“… a very readable account of this interesting group of birds, and the first book on its Australian members … Everything you ever wanted to know about these attractive birds, from aerodynamics to ladies’ fashions and powder down.”
Wingspan v.15 no.3 September 2005

". . . an easy to read, succinct, informative and timely text, which is a worthy addition to Australian ornithological literature."
Nick Murray (Corella 29(3))

“If you have an interest in waterbirds, or herons in particular, then you will find this a fascinating account of heron, egret and bittern biology and ecology.”
Martin O’Brien (The Bird Observer no.837 August 2005)

“An excellent, easy to read book which provides the most comprehensive coverage of herons ever produced in Australia. Well worth taking the time to explore this vital family of birds”
Alison Milnes (Bird Care and Conservation SA Magazine v.25 no.177 July 2005)

”… a much desired and welcome addition to Australian ornithological literature and should be equally well accepted overseas.”
Fred TH Smith (The Victorian Naturalist v.122 no.3 June 2005

"…an excellent series… The naturalist and bird watcher will find this book… most informative."
The Australian 6 April 2005

"This is a fine, up-to-date introduction to Australian herons."
Ibis no. 147 2005

"This is a useful summary of the state of knowledge of Australia's Ardeidae and deserves to find a wide readership… hopefully we can look forward to more such titles in the Australian Natural History Series."
Andrew Ley (Emu v.105 issue 3)


 Neil McKilligan has spent almost three decades studying egrets, and currently holds an honorary senior lectureship at the University of Southern Queensland. 

Related Titles
 Wildlife Conservation in Farm Landscapes    Circle   The East Asian–Australasian Flyway: Population Trends, Threats and the Future   An Atlas of the Birds of NSW and the ACT Volume 2    Australian Wildlife After Dark    Seabirds of the World    Gift Vouchers  


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