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GALLERIES > BIRDS > CICONIIFORMES > ARDEIDAE > GRAY HERON [Ardea cinerea]    [plot on map]

Gray Heron Picture @
Location: Inn the Park, London, England
GPS: 51.5N, -0.1W, elev=58' MAP
Date: December 26, 2011
ID : B13K1178 [4896 x 3264]

nature photography

Gray Heron Photo @
Location: Mai Po Nature Reserve, Hong Kong, China
GPS: 22.5N, 114.0E, elev=1' MAP
Date: January 10, 2014
ID : B13K5546 [4896 x 3264]

nature photography

Gray Heron Image @
Location: Mai Po Nature Reserve, Hong Kong, China
GPS: 22.5N, 114.0E, elev=1' MAP
Date: January 10, 2014
ID : B13K5522 [4896 x 3264]

bird photography


The Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea), is a wading bird of the heron family Ardeidae, 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 regions. It has become common in summer even inside the Arctic circle along the Norwegian coast.

Adult at Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India. Immature at Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India.

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 adults. 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.

There are four subspecies:

  • Ardea cinerea cinerea Linnaeus, 1758. Europe, Africa, western Asia.
  • Ardea cinerea jouyi Clark, 1907. Eastern Asia.
  • Ardea cinerea firasa Hartert, 1917. Madagascar.
  • Ardea cinerea monicae Jouanin & Roux, 1963. Islands off Banc d'Arguin, Mauritania.

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.

Behaviour In flight with large numbers of them with Great Egrets in the background in Kolkata, West Bengal, India.

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.

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.

The call is a loud croaking "fraaank".


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