Grey Heron

Scientific name: Ardea cinerea

Did you know: Grey Herons can stand motionless for hours while hunting, a testament to their incredible patience and hunting skill!

What Do Grey Herons Look Like? (how to identify them)

Grey Herons are majestic long-legged wading birds, native across Europe, Asia, and parts of Africa. 

Adults stand about a metre tall, with a wingspan reaching nearly two metres. They are characterised by their ashy-grey plumage, with striking white heads and necks adorned by a broad black stripe extending from the eye to a black crest. Their underparts are greyish-white, accented with black on the flanks. 

Notably, their long beak is pinkish-yellow, and their legs are a contrasting brown.

Differences Between Male And Female Grey Herons

While male and female Grey Herons are similar in plumage, females tend to be slightly smaller with shorter crest feathers, known as aigrets, compared to their male counterparts.

What Do Grey Herons Eat?

Primarily piscivores, Grey Herons feast mostly on fish. However, their diet is diverse, including amphibians, crustaceans, small birds such as ducklings, and small mammals like voles. They are skilled hunters, often seen standing still beside water bodies, waiting to strike swiftly at their prey.

Where Do Grey Herons Live? (inc. migration info)

Grey Herons are adaptable birds found near various water bodies like lakes, rivers, ponds, marshes, and coastal regions. While largely resident, some populations migrate southwards in autumn from the northern parts of their range. 

They breed in heronries, usually high in trees, close to their feeding areas.

Bird Calls & Songs (the unique voices of Grey Herons)

Grey Herons are not particularly vocal but are known for their loud croaking “fraaank” call. They also make various guttural and raucous noises, especially in the breeding colonies. 

Males use an advertisement call to attract females, and pairs use greeting calls once bonded.

Fun Grey Heron Facts (kid friendly)

  • Grey Herons can stand as tall as an average 3-year-old child!
  • They have a wingspan almost as wide as a small car.
  • Grey Herons can eat fish, ducklings, and even small rodents.
  • They build their nests high up in trees, in a place called a heronry.
  • Juvenile Grey Herons don’t have the striking black stripe on their heads like adults do.
  • Grey Herons are patient hunters, standing still for long periods waiting for fish.
  • They can be seen around almost any water body, even in urban park ponds.
  • In ancient times, people thought Grey Heron fat could cure rheumatism.
  • Grey Herons can live for about 5 years in the wild.
  • They are skilled flyers, despite their large size.

Grey Heron Images

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Male
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Female
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Hatchling
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Nestling
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Chick
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Fledgling
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Juvenile

Facts About The Grey Heron

Diet: Lots of fish, but also small birds such as ducklings, small mammals like voles and amphibians. After harvesting, grey herons can sometimes be seen in fields, looking for rodents.
Bird Family: Herons, storks and ibises
Length: 90-98cm
Wingspan: 175-195cm
Weight: 1.5-2kg
Scientific Name: Ardea cinerea

The Grey Heron Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December