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Grey Heron

From Opus

Nominate racePhoto by MacswedeRåstasjön, Sweden, February, 2010
Nominate race
Photo by Macswede
Råstasjön, Sweden, February, 2010
jouyi racePhoto by the late  Laurence PohKinta Nature Park, Perak, Malaysia
jouyi race
Photo by the late Laurence Poh
Kinta Nature Park, Perak, Malaysia
Ardea cinerea


[edit] Identification

Height 90-98 cm (35¬Ĺ-38¬Ĺ in)
Weight up to 2 kg

  • Bright white crown
  • Black line running from above and behind the eye to the nape and extending as a spike-like crest
  • White neck with a double row of black streaks down the throat
  • Underparts grey
  • Black patch from shoulder down to flanks
  • Grey back and wings
  • Long, yellow bill
  • Greenish-yellow legs and feet
  • All-grey underwing

[edit] Distribution

A very widespread Old World species breeding across much of Eurasia and Africa. Breeds throughout the British Isles and much of mainland Europe from north and central France north to coastal Scandinavia and east across Russia to Sakhalin, Manchuria and Japan. In the south found at scattered localities from Iberia to Greece and Turkey, the Caucasus and east across southern Asia, India and Indochina south to Sumatra and Java. In Africa breeds on the Mediterranean coast and in the Nile Valley, on the Banc D'Arguin in Mauritania, probably also on the Azores, in West Africa, western Madagascar and from Ethiopia south to South Africa.

Northernmost birds are migratory and winter range is more extensive in Europe, Africa, south-west Asia and Indonesia. Vagrant north to Greenland and Svalbard and to the south a rare resident/migrant or vagrant to Azores and Cape Verde Islands. Also recorded on Bermuda, the West Indies and in Newfoundland.

[edit] Taxonomy

Photo by robbyukTowneley, UK
Photo by robbyuk
Towneley, UK

[edit] Subspecies

There are 4 subspecies[1]:

  • Nominate race occurs over most of range with much paler
  • monicae on the Banc D'Arguin of Mauritania
  • jouyi in the east from Japan to Java
  • firasa on Madagascar, Aldabra and the Comoros.

[edit] Habitat

Colonial breeder, usually in trees in most of Europe, sometimes on a cliff or in reedbeds in the east; race monicae nests on the ground on islets. Frequents the margins of a variety of freshwater including lakes, streams and swamps, brackish lagoons and estuaries, and often sea-coasts. Also feeds or rests on grassland.

In some parts of range a common bird in urban areas. The Grey Heron is a familiar bird of lakes, rivers, pans and also rocky coastlines where it is usually seen hunting in shallow water.

[edit] Behaviour

JuvenilePhoto by Doc DuckSt. James Park, London, August 2016
Photo by Doc Duck
St. James Park, London, August 2016

Birds spend long periods standing still in the water, waiting patiently for prey to swim within range of a lightning fast lunge of the bill.

They have occasionally been observed to swim.[6]

[edit] Flight

Like others of the family, the Grey Heron flies with its long neck retracted and the head pulled back into its shoulders.

[edit] Diet

Opportunist feeders, Grey Herons eat a wide variety of fish, invertebrates, ducklings and land animals, such as rats and young rabbits.
They have even been recorded catching swifts, by ambushing them under a low level bridge.[2]

[edit] Breeding

Colonial breeders, often mixed with other species such as egrets, cormorants and spoonbills. The colony is almost always associated with water - fresh or salt.

The nest is an untidy platform of sticks, usually at the top of a tall tree. Usual clutch size is 3-4 eggs.

[edit] Vocalisation

The call is a harsh kraaank.

Listen in an external program
An adult flying overhead and giving continuous calls, in the recording, done in winter, below :

Listen in an external program
Recording by Alok Tewari
Nazafgarh Wetlands and Marshes, Gurgaon, Haryana, India, January-2017

[edit] In Culture

[edit] Other Names

German: Graureiher; Afrikaans: Bloureier; Polish: Czapla siwa; Gaelic: Corra-Ghritheach

[edit] References

  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2016. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2016, with updates to August 2016. Downloaded from
  2. In Nature
  3. Collins Pocket Guide to British Birds 1966
  4. Collins Field Guide 5th Edition
  5. Collins Bird Guide ISBN 0 00 219728 6
  6. Swimming Grey Heron, Birdforum discussion thread

[edit] External Links


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