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Grey Heron

Grey Heron
Both sexes: Grey and white with black markings on head and neck.

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.

Grey Heron
Grey Heron

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.

Scientific Name Ardea cinerea
Length 90-98 cm  (36-40")
Wing Span 175-195 cm  (70-78")
Weight 1500-2000 g  (3½-4½lb)
Breeding Pairs 13000
Present All Year
Status Green

Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.


The most common call is a loud, harsh "frarnk", which is often given in flight.


© Jean Roché,


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 Starts Clutches 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.