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Grey Heron

Grey Heron Grey Heron Both Sexes
Grey and white with black markings on head and neck.
Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.
Ardea cinerea
Length: 90-98 cm  (36-40")
Wing Span: 175-195 cm  (70-78")
Weight: 1500-2000 g  (3½-4½lb)
Breeding Pairs: 13 000
Present: All Year
Status: Green
Description   Voice   Feeding   Nesting   Movements   Conservation   My Garden  
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The Grey Heron is a tall bird with a long neck and legs, and a heavy dagger-like bill.

The upperparts are grey, but the head, neck and belly are white. The crest is black and black markings continue down the throat to the belly.

In flight, the outer half of the wings are black and the wing beat is very slow with the neck retracted into its shoulders and the legs are extended.

In or near water, they are often standing motionless with their head in their shoulders or feeding alone.

Juveniles are darker with much less white and lack the long crest plumes.


Choose from Quicktime and mp3. Call
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The most common call is a loud, harsh "frarnk", which is often given in flight.


Grey Herons eat mainly fish, amphibians and small mammals, and occasionally birds.

They are solitary feeders and very patient, and will standstill for long periods stalking their prey. They will quickly empty a garden pond of fish.


They nest in tall trees and usually with other herons to form a colony or heronry. The nest is a large platform, made from twigs and grass, and built by both male and female birds.

The duties of incubating the eggs are performed by both parents. The eggs are about 60 mm by 43 mm, and pale greenish-blue. Both adults feed the young birds.

Breeding Data
Breeding Starts Number of Clutches Number of Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
February 1-2 2-7 23-28 42-55


British herons are mostly sedentary, but some do migrate to Ireland and the near-continent, such as France and Holland.

In the winter, northern European Grey Herons arrive in eastern Britain, especially along the coast.


Illegal persecution and pollution are less of an issue today than a few years ago and the population is still increasing slowly.

My Garden

Graph of garden visits.

A Grey Heron has been seen flying overhead many times over the last few years and occasionally has visited our garden or those of our neighbours, especially in the early morning. Several Magpies and Carrion Crows usually "escort" and mob the heron.

Last revision: 01 Jul 2010
Copyright © David Gains 1999-2014.
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