The Grey Heron, Ardea cinerea
is a wading bird of the heron
, native throughout temperate Europe and Asia
and also parts of Africa. It is resident in the milder south and west,
but many birds retreat in winter from the ice in colder areas.
It is a large bird, standing 90-100 cm tall, with a 175-195 cm wingspan
and a weight of 1-2 kg.
Its plumage is largely grey above, and off-white below.
Adults have a white head with a broad black supercilium and slender
crest, while immatures have a dull grey head.
It has a powerful pinkish-yellow bill, which is brighter in breeding
It has a slow flight, with its long neck retracted (S-shaped).
This is characteristic of herons and bitterns, and distinguishes
them from storks, cranes and spoonbills, which extend their necks.
It is closely related and similar to the American Great Blue Heron,
which differs in slightly larger size, and chestnut-brown
flanks and thighs. The Australian White-faced Heron is often incorrectly
called Grey Heron.
.This species breeds in colonies in trees close to lakes, the sea-shore
or other wetlands, although it will also nest in reed beds.
It builds a bulky stick nest.
It feeds in shallow water, catching fish or frogs with its long
bill. Herons will also take small mammals and birds.
It will often wait motionless for prey, or slowly stalk its victim.
Heron - Overview
© David Element
In the Netherlands, the grey heron has become a very common species
in recent decades by moving into urban environments
in great numbers. There, the herons hunt as they usually would but
also make use of food discarded by humans,
will visit feeding times in zoos to birds such as penguins and pelicans
and some individuals even make use of people
feeding them at their homes.