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Species Hierarchy 
Common name: HERON - GREAT BLUE
Scentific name: ARDEA HERODIAS

Location: FLORIDA, USA

Species Info:

This lifeform is widespread in North America.

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is found throughout most of North America from Alaska to Florida. Its winter range is from the southern United States to northern South America.This large water bird stands about four feet tall (its total length is over fifty inches). The blue and white head and the blue-gray color throughout help identify this large wetland bird.

Although diminishing wetlands in the central United States have reduced the natural habitat of this magnificent bird, it still is relatively common.

In extreme south Florida and the Florida keys there is a pure white heron which is usually referred to as the Great White Heron (Ardea occidentalis). The Great White Heron is very rare, and various hurricanes have had a major impact on the small remaining population.  

Also in the Florida Keys, there is a heron called Wurdemann's Heron (Ardea wurdemanni) that appears to be a hybrid between the Great White and Great Blue Heron. Different taxonomists handle these three forms in a variety of ways resulting in some taxonomic confusion with this species.

Bittern and Heron group (Family Ardeidae) has about 62 species of birds with worldwide distribution. The unequal vertebrae in the neck causes many species of herons to carry their neck in a curved position. Long legs adapted to wading and feeding in marshy areas is typical of most herons of the order.

Stork and Heron group (Order Ciciiformes) is made up of birds with long legs that usually are found near the shores of bodies of water. Their long legs let them wade through the shallow water looking for food. Fossil remains indicate these birds have been around for at least 100 million years. There are about 114 living species in this group.

Aves contains about 8,650 different species of living birds known to science. Each year about one new species is discovered in some remote rain forest or remote island. In addition, scientists have been raising many subspecies to full species status which may raise the species count to 10,000.

However, each year about one species goes extinct. The rate of extinction is increasing, and the rate of new discovery is decreasing, so that the number of bird species will soon begin to decline rapidly. Although different taxonomists would organize the birds differently, there are approximately twenty-seven orders of birds. These orders are broken down into about one hundred and fifty-five different families.

Recent research of the genetic structure of some of the shore birds and owls would indicate that the present organization of orders and families should have some modification.

The birds are a worldwide group of animals that are characterized by having the front limbs modified into wings that are used for flying. Perhaps the most unique feature of the birds is the feathers. These feathers are made up of a central support called a quill and a series of small filaments that are hooked together as barbs.

For many years it was believed that Archaeopteryx discovered in Bavaria was the oldest bird from about 150 million years ago.  However, in l986, Sankar Chattterjee, a Texas paleontologist, reportedly discovered a bird in the genus Protoavis that lived about 225 million years ago.

Backboned Animals (Phylum Chordata) are the most advanced group of animals on earth. These animals are characterized by having a spinal cord or backbone. Most members have a clearly defined brain that controls the organism through a spinal cord. Fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals are in this phylum.

Currently, some taxonomists believe that the fish should be divided into two groups (sharks and regular fishes) and that there are some other primitive groups in the phylum such as hagfish or lampreys.

Animal Kingdom contains numerous organisms that feed on other animals or plants. Included in the animal kingdom are the lower marine invertebrates such as sponges and corals, the jointed legged animals such as insects and spiders, and the backboned animals such as fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.


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