Trophozoites of Giardia ardeae were obtained from the great blue heron (Ardea herodias) and established in axenic culture using the TYI-S-33 medium. The generation time in culture for G. ardeae was 22-25 hr, which was 3-fold longer than for Giardia duodenalis (WB strain). A morphological comparison of trophozoites in the original intestinal isolate to those grown in culture revealed that they were identical for the following characteristics: a pyriform-shaped body, a ventral adhesive disc with a deep notch in the posterior border, teardrop-shaped nuclei, pleomorphism in median body structure ranging from a round-oval appearance (Giardia muris type) to that of a clawhammer (G. duodenalis type), and a single caudal flagellum on the right side (as viewed dorsally) with the left one being rudimentary. Analysis of the chromosomal migration patterns was performed by orthogonal-field-alternation gel electrophoresis and demonstrated that the pattern for G. ardeae was distinctly different from that for G. duodenalis (Portland 1-CCW strain). Bacterial symbionts were seen attached to trophozoites in the original isolate but could not be detected in culture trophozoites using scanning electron microscopy, fluorescence light microscopy using the Hoechst 33258 dye for DNA localization, or by standard microbiological techniques using nonselective media for growing aerobic or anaerobic bacteria. This study demonstrated that avian-derived Giardia could be grown in axenic culture; based on morphological criteria and chromosomal migration patterns, that G. ardeae should be considered a distinct species; and that rationale for determining Giardia spp., based on median body structure alone, should no longer be considered adequate for classification at the species level.