Gray heron

Exhibit powerful flight, with distinctive slow wing beats and an extended neck, defining features during their aerial movements

Savithri Singh

A widely recognized wader, gracing a variety of aquatic landscapes with its poised stance and striking appearance. This bird is a familiar sight across temperate Europe, parts of Asia, and Africa, often found along the edges of lakes, rivers, and ponds.

Standing up to a meter tall, the Grey heron is an imposing figure with a wingspan that can reach up to 195 cm (77 inches). Its plumage is an elegant combination of slate grey on the body, with a contrasting white head and neck. During the breeding season, adults don a more ornate look with black feathers forming a striking eyestripe extending to the nape and beautiful, elongated plumes called “aigrettes” adorning their chest and back.

The Grey heron’s slender legs are perfectly adapted for wading through various water depths, while its long, sinuous neck coils into an “S” shape during flight, making it a distinctive silhouette against the sky. Its bill is sharp and powerful, ideal for spearing fish, its primary prey. However, the heron’s diet is not limited to aquatic life; it will also hunt small mammals like voles, birds, amphibians, and even insects, making it an opportunistic and versatile predator.

These birds are known for their solitary hunting habits, often standing statue-like, peering into the water to locate their next meal. When prey comes within range, the Grey heron strikes with lightning speed, its bill an effective tool for capturing and subduing its catch. Despite this apparent stillness, they are capable of quick movements when necessary.

Socially, Grey herons are more gregarious. They breed in colonies known as heronries, which may contain dozens to hundreds of nests, often in tall trees. These communal nesting sites foster a safe environment for raising young, with multiple pairs providing collective vigilance against potential threats.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Afghanistan
2018
Albania
2018
Breeding
Algeria
2018
Andorra
2018
Armenia
2018
Breeding
Australia
2018
Vagrant
Austria
2018
Azerbaijan
2018
Bahrain
2018
Bangladesh
2018
Belarus
2018
Breeding
Belgium
2018
Benin
2018
Non-Breeding
Bhutan
2018
Bosnia And Herz.
2018
Breeding
Brunei
2018
Vagrant
Bulgaria
2018
Burkina Faso
2018
Burundi
2018
Vagrant
Cambodia
2018
Cameroon
2018
Canada
2018
Vagrant
Cape Verde
2018
Central Af. Rep.
2018
Chad
2018
China
2018
Breeding
Comoros
2018
Vagrant
Croatia
2018
Cyprus
2018
Czechia
2018
DR Congo (Kinshasa)
2018
Denmark
2018
Djibouti
2018
Egypt
2018
Eritrea
2018
Estonia
2018
Ethiopia
2018
Faroe Islands
2018
Breeding
Finland
2018
France
2018
Gabon
2018
Vagrant
Gambia
2018
Georgia
2018
Breeding
Germany
2018
Ghana
2018
Breeding
Gibraltar
2018
Non-Breeding
Greece
2018
Greenland
2018
Breeding
Guam
2018
Origin Uncertain
Guinea-Bissau
2018
Guinea
2018
Hong Kong
2018
Hungary
2018
Breeding
Iceland
2018
Breeding
India
2018
Breeding
Iran
2018
Iraq
2018
Ireland
2018
Israel
2018
Italy
2018
Japan
2018
Breeding
Jordan
2018
Kazakhstan
2018
Breeding
Kenya
2018
Korea
2018
Breeding
Kuwait
2018
Kyrgyzstan
2018
Laos
2018
Latvia
2018
Lebanon
2018
Libya
2018
Liechtenstein
2018
Lithuania
2018
Luxembourg
2018
Macao
2018
Seasonality Uncertain
Malaysia
2018
Mali
2018
Malta
2018
Non-Breeding
Mauritania
2018
Mexico
2018
Moldova
2018
Mongolia
2018
Breeding
Montenegro
2018
Breeding
Morocco
2018
Myanmar
2018
Nepal
2018
Breeding
Netherlands
2018
Niger
2018
Nigeria
2018
Nort. Mariana Is.
2018
Vagrant
North Korea
2018
Breeding
North Macedonia
2018
Norway
2018
Breeding
Oman
2018
Pakistan
2018
Breeding
Palau
2018
Vagrant
Philippines
2018
Poland
2018
Portugal
2018
Qatar
2018
Romania
2018
Russia
2018
Rwanda
2018
Origin Uncertain
Saint Pierre
2018
Vagrant
San Marino
2018
Saudi Arabia
2018
Senegal
2018
Serbia
2018
Breeding
Seychelles
2018
Vagrant
Sierra Leone
2018
Singapore
2018
Slovakia
2018
Slovenia
2018
Somalia
2018
South Sudan
2018
Non-Breeding
Spain
2018
Sri Lanka
2018
Sudan
2018
Svalbard
2018
Breeding
Sweden
2018
Switzerland
2018
Syria
2018
Taiwan
2018
Breeding
Tajikistan
2018
Breeding
Tanzania
2018
Vagrant
Thailand
2018
Togo
2018
Vagrant
Trinidad & Tobago
2018
Vagrant
Tunisia
2018
Turkmenistan
2018
Breeding
Turkey
2018
UAE
2018
Non-Breeding
Uganda
2018
Ukraine
2018
United Kingdom
2018
United States
2018
Breeding
Uzbekistan
2018
Breeding
Vietnam
2018
Yemen
2018
Zambia
2018
Origin Uncertain
Zimbabwe
2018
Origin Uncertain

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No