Grey heron

Species profile

Name: the grey heron (Ardea cinerea) is a long-legged wading bird in the heron family.

Appearance: they have white heads and necks with a broad black stripe across the tops of their heads. Their bodies and wings are grey. Grey herons are elegant birds with long thin legs, necks, and beaks.

Size: they stand up to 1 metre tall and weigh up to 2 kg. Wingspans can range from 1.5 to 2.0 metres in width.

Diet: grey herons feed on aquatic creatures such as fish, insects, small mammals and amphibians. They catch their prey by standing stationary beside water bodies or stalking slowly through the water before striking with their sharp beaks.

Did you know: these beautiful birds have imprinted themselves on human culture for thousands of years. In Ancient Egypt, the deity Bennu who was associated with the sun, creation, and rebirth was depicted as a heron. While in Ancient Rome the heron was a bird of divination that portended important events. In England, roast heron used to be a specially prized dish and the Archbishop of York once served 400 herons to their guests in 1465. The English surnames Earnshaw, Hernshaw, Herne, and Heron all derive from places where herons nested.

Location: grey herons are found in lakes, rivers, ponds, marshes, and coasts throughout Europe and Asia and parts of Africa. In recent years they have increasingly been found in urban environments and are well adapted to modern city life.

Where to see grey herons

According to reports submitted to WildSide, the top ten places you can see grey herons are:

Place Chance to see User rating No. reports
#1 London Wetland Centre
England
100%
very high
4.3
very good
3
reports
#2 Knepp
England
100%
very high
4.0
very good
1
reports
#3 Dee Estuary
England
100%
very high
3.0
good
1
reports
#4 Sevenoaks
England
88%
very high
3.3
good
33
reports
#5 Nairobi National Park
Kenya
33%
low
4.3
very good
3
reports
#6 Samburu
Kenya
33%
low
4.3
very good
3
reports
#7 Isle of Sheppey
England
33%
low
3.7
good
3
reports
#8 Moray Firth
Scotland
29%
low
3.3
good
7
reports
#9 Peckham Rye
England
27%
low
3.1
good
33
reports
#10 Maasai Mara
Kenya
17%
very low
5.0
very good
6
reports

Photo credit: WildSide team member Chris White

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