Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
The Grey Heron 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.
It is a large bird, standing up to 100 cm (39 in) tall and measuring 84–102 cm (33–40 in) long with a 155–195 cm (61–77 in) wingspan. The body weight can range from 1.02–2.08 kg (2.2–4.6 lb). 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. The call is a loud croaking "fraaank".
Food and feeding
It feeds in shallow water, catching fish, frogs, and insects with its long bill. Herons will also take small mammals, reptiles and occasionally warbler nestlings, plovers, young and adult snipes, takes ducklings and tern chicks and other small 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 also make use of food discarded by humans. They will also visit Zoos at feeding times to take advantage of birds such as penguins and pelicans and some individuals even make use of people feeding them at their homes. Similar behaviour on a smaller scale has been reported in Ireland.
This species breeds in colonies in trees close to lakes, the seashore or other wetlands, although it will also nest in reedbeds. It builds a bulky stick nest.
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©Andy Stuart 2012
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