The great blue heron is a large, wading bird that is common throughout North and Central America. It stalks fish and frogs in the shallows of nearly any body of water and uses its long neck and powerful bill to snatch its prey.
Kingdom is the broadest classification assigned to living things. The kingdom Animalia contains all known animals, including the great blue heron. Animals are multicellular, do not create energy using photosynthesis and have cells that are not surrounded by a rigid cell wall.
The great blue heron belongs to the phylum chordata. This phylum includes all animals with a backbone and spinal cord, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish.
The class Aves contains the birds. All birds, including the great blue heron, are distinguished from other animals by the presence of feathers on their bodies.
The order Ciconiiformes comprises birds that have long legs and large bills, including the storks, herons, ibises and egrets. Like most members of this order, the great blue heron uses its long legs for wading in shallow water and its large bill for catching small, aquatic animals.
The family Ardeidae includes the herons, egrets and bitterns. These birds are separated from the other Ciconiiformes, because they hold their neck retracted, or curved, in flight. In contrast ibises, spoonbills and storks typically fly with their necks outstretched.
The great blue heron is considered a "typical heron" and belongs to the genus Ardea. The primary feature distinguishing these birds from other herons is their size, as they often exceed a meter in length. Within this genus, the great blue heron belongs to the species Ardea herodias.