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5

Grey Heron

(Ardea cinerea)
German name(s): "Graureiher"
Size: 84-102 cm; wing span 1.55-1.75 m
Weight: 1.0-2.1 kg

Similar species

Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Grey Heron at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

Race "cinerea"

ADULT

MALE

BREEDING

Grey Heron in breeding plumage with nuptial flush (note the pinkish bill) bringing nest material; in a pair the bird bringing nest material is the male (photo courtesy of J. Pires )
[Montargil Dam, near Mora, Evora, Portugal, April 2019]

Lateral view of a pair of Grey Herons in breeding plumage (note the white forehead and the nuchal plumes), with nuptial flush (indicated by the pinkish bill), near their nest - the bird attending to the nest, in the foreground, is the female; the bird behind is the male (photo courtesy of J. Pires )
[Montargil Dam, near Mora, Evora, Portugal, February 2017]

Pair of Grey Herons, both with nuptial flush (orange bill) (photo courtesy of H. Dahlem-Senger)
[River Rhine, between Walluf and Schierstein, Hessn, Germany, April 2019]

FEMALE

BREEDING

Grey Heron in breeding plumage on its nest - the bird attending to the nest is the female; note the all-yellow bill and the nuchal plumes (photo courtesy of J. Pires )
[Montargil Dam, near Mora, Evora, Portugal, April 2019]

Sex unknown

BREEDING

Near-frontal view of a Grey Heron in breeding plumage; note the all-yellow bill and the nuchal plumes
(photo courtesy of J. Pires )
[Montargil Dam, near Mora, Evora, Portugal, April 2018]

Comparison of Grey Herons in breeding plumage (note the white forehead and the nuchal plumes), WITH nuptial flush (indicated by the pinkish bill; left), and without (yellow bill; right)
(photos courtesy of J. Pires )
[Montargil Dam, near Mora, Evora, Portugal]

Lateral portrait of a Grey Heron moulting into its breeding plumage; it has most of the attributes of an adult bird, except the grey forehead and some remnant grey on the crown (photo courtesy of H. Dahlem-Senger)
[Near Arnhem, Netherlands, April 2018]

Lateral view of a Grey Heron moulting into its breeding plumage; it has most of the attributes of an adult bird, except the grey forehead (photo courtesy of H. Dahlem-Senger)
[Near Arnhem, Netherlands, April 2018]

Near-dorsal view of a Grey Heron in breeding plumage in flight (photo courtesy of J. Pires )
[Near Mora, Evora, Portugal, June 2015]

NON-BREEDING

Frontal view of a Grey Heron in non-breeding plumage; note the dark upper mandible (photo courtesy of J. Pires )
[Near Mora, Evora, Portugal, June 2015]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Lateral view of a second-year Grey Heron
[River Lahn, near Bad Kreuznach, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany, June 2010]

Lateral view of a Grey Heron in second-winter plumage hunting in a meadow (photo courtesy of H. Dahlem-Senger)
[Rüdesheim, Rheinhessen, Germany, October 2016]

Hard times for fish trapped in a stagnant pool of water: Grey Herons, Little Egrets and Great [White] Egrets gathered for an easy meal (photo courtesy of J. Pires )
[Mora, Evora, Portugal, October 2015]

Lateral view of a second-year Grey Heron in flight (photo courtesy of J. Pires )
[Montargil Dam, near Mora, Evora, Portugal, June 2014]

Ventral view of a second-year Grey Heron in flight (photo courtesy of J. Pires )
[Near Mora, Evora, Portugal, May 2015]

Lateral view of a juvenile Grey Heron; note the grey cap (photo courtesy of D. Wilczynska)
[Near Malkinia, Masovia, Poland, July 2019]

Lateral/ventral view of a juvenile Grey Heron in flight (photo courtesy of J. Pires )
[Montargil Dam, near Mora, Evora, Portugal, June 2014]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Feb - June Eggs: 3 - 5 Incubation period: 25 days Fledging age: 49 - 56 days

Nest building: Female & male Incubation: Female & male Dependent care: Female & male

Male Grey Herons collect the nesting material, while females use it to actually build the nest.

Nest

Type: Basket Material: Sticks, twigs, lined with dry grass Height above ground: >10(?) m

(Most likely female) Grey Heron on its nest, rearranging sticks (photo courtesy of H. Dahlem-Senger)
[River Rhine, between Walluf and Schierstein, Hessn, Germany, April 2019]

Grey Herons nesting in a colonial nesting tree together with Cattle Egrets (photo courtesy of J. Pires )
[Near Mora, Evora, Portugal, March 2014]

Grey Herons nesting in a colonial nesting tree - these are the birds whose calls were recorded on 8 June 2019
(photo courtesy of J. Pires )
[Near Mora, Evora, Portugal, June 2019]

Eggs

Size: 60 x 43 mm Colour: Matt greenish-blue Shape: Tapered oval

Behaviour

Frontal view of a Grey Heron drying its wings (photo courtesy of J. Pires )
[Near Mora, Evora, Portugal, December 2013]

Grey Herons can often be seen standing in slow-moving water, or wading upstream while looking for fish in the water
(photo courtesy of D. Wilczynska)
[River Bug, near Brok, Masovia, Poland, August 2016]

Grey Herons also hunt from hiding places between tall reeds (photo courtesy of D. Wilczynska)
[River Bug, near Brok, Masovia, Poland, August 2016]

Food, Diet

All egrets and herons prey on aquatic creatures in fresh water or estuaries (fish, frogs, snakes or crustaceans).

To see how a Grey Heron beaches a fish and then disposes of it, click HERE.

Frontal view of a Grey Heron in breeding plumage swallowing its prey (photo courtesy of J. Pires )
[Montargil Dam, near Mora, Evora, Portugal, April 2019]

Lateral view of a Grey Heron in breeding plumage taking small prey (photo courtesy of G. Pinelas)
[Alges, Lisbon, Portugal, April 2017]

Near-dorsal view of a juvenile Grey Heron swallowing its prey (photo courtesy of J. Pires )
[Near Mora, Evora, Portugal, November 2013]

Grey Herons can take big prey (photo courtesy of H. Dahlem-Senger)
[River Rhine, near Walluf, Germany, May 2017]

Grey Herons hunting in numbers (photo courtesy of J. Pires )
[Montargil Dam, near Mora, Evora, Portugal, October 2013]

Call(s)/Song

For this species we have recorded the following call(s)/song. The interpretation of their meaning is our own; comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

gheron_jp_20190608_2.m4a cinerea
(Ctl Portugal)
Contact call(?) © JP
gheron_jp_20190608_1.m4a cinerea
(Ctl Portugal)
Alarm call(?) © JP
gheron_jp_20190608_3.m4a cinerea
(Ctl Portugal)
Various, incl. begging chicks (+ House Sparrows) © JP

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

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