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Scientific classification

An egret is any of several herons, most of which are white or buff, and several of which develop fine plumes during the breeding season. Many egrets are members of the genera Egretta or Ardea which contain other species regarded as herons rather than egrets. The distinction between a heron and an egret is rather vague and depends more on appearance than biology.

Several of the egrets have been moved around from one genus to another in recent years: the Little Egret[?], for example, was traditionally classified as a member of Egretta, moved to Ardea, and then moved back again. The Cattle Egret[?] was the sole member of Bubulcus but is now Ardea ibis, and so on. Common names are often a more reliable guide to egret identification.

In the 19th and early part of the 20th century, most of the world's egret species were brought to the brink of extinction by relentless hunting. Hat makers in Europe and the United States demanded massive numbers of egret plumes and breeding birds were massacred in locations all around the world.

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