Bird Species of the World's Boreal Forests


Ardea cinerea
Grey Heron


Distinguishing Features - Length: 90 - 98cm; weight: 1020 - 2073g; sexes alike. A large grey and white heron with long legs; flies with neck pulled into s-shape and legs outstretched; forehead white; black eyebrow-stripe extends from bill to top of nape, ending in two or three long plumes; face, nape and sides of neck white; throat white with two black streaks ending at breast; back, tail and wings pale grey; shoulders, sides of breast and belly black, rest of undersides white; primaries and secondaries black underneath, inner secondaries blue-grey; bill, lores and eye dullish yellow, legs pale brown. Albino and brown/buff forms occur. Bill bright orange and legs bright pinky-red; mantle and breast with long plumes.

Grey Heron Habitat

Across most of the Old World except extreme north and Siberia; frequents intertidal and shallow fresh waters; less frequent in dry grasslands.


Eats predominantly fish; also molluscs, crustaceans, worms, insects, turtle hatchlings, eels, amphibians, reptiles, small rodents and sometimes even small birds.


Grey herons tend to be noisier than other herons. In flight, they let out a raucous 'kraank'; at heronries, various low grunts, gurgles and cackles. Their 'advertising call' is a sharp, repeated 'rwo' given from prominent perch; the "landing call' is a series of low grunts 'arre-arre-ar-ar-ar-ar', ending in clucking. An 'alarm call' is a soft, nasal 'go-go-go' when mildly alarmed at nest; a loud, rasping 'ruck' when highly alarmed, sometimes repeated during aerial pursuit. Some courtship or greeting displays involve bill-snapping; young make constant chittering which becomes harsher with age.

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