Grey Heron

Grey Heron

Overview
The Grey Heron is a wading bird
Bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

 of the heron
Heron
The herons are long-legged freshwater and coastal birds in the family Ardeidae. There are 64 recognised species in this family. Some are called "egrets" or "bitterns" instead of "heron"....

 family Ardeidae, native throughout temperate Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 and Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

 and also parts of Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

. It is resident in the milder south and west, but many birds retreat
Bird migration
Bird migration is the regular seasonal journey undertaken by many species of birds. Bird movements include those made in response to changes in food availability, habitat or weather. Sometimes, journeys are not termed "true migration" because they are irregular or in only one direction...

 in winter from the ice in colder regions. It has become common in summer even inside the Arctic circle
Arctic Circle
The Arctic Circle is one of the five major circles of latitude that mark maps of the Earth. For Epoch 2011, it is the parallel of latitude that runs north of the Equator....

 along the Norwegian
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 coast.


It is a large bird, standing up to 100 cm (39.4 in) tall and measuring 84–102 cm (33.1–40.2 in) long with a 155 – wingspan.
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Encyclopedia
The Grey Heron is a wading bird
Bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

 of the heron
Heron
The herons are long-legged freshwater and coastal birds in the family Ardeidae. There are 64 recognised species in this family. Some are called "egrets" or "bitterns" instead of "heron"....

 family Ardeidae, native throughout temperate Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 and Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

 and also parts of Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

. It is resident in the milder south and west, but many birds retreat
Bird migration
Bird migration is the regular seasonal journey undertaken by many species of birds. Bird movements include those made in response to changes in food availability, habitat or weather. Sometimes, journeys are not termed "true migration" because they are irregular or in only one direction...

 in winter from the ice in colder regions. It has become common in summer even inside the Arctic circle
Arctic Circle
The Arctic Circle is one of the five major circles of latitude that mark maps of the Earth. For Epoch 2011, it is the parallel of latitude that runs north of the Equator....

 along the Norwegian
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 coast.

Description



It is a large bird, standing up to 100 cm (39.4 in) tall and measuring 84–102 cm (33.1–40.2 in) long with a 155 – wingspan. The body weight can range from 1.02 –. Its plumage
Feather
Feathers are one of the epidermal growths that form the distinctive outer covering, or plumage, on birds and some non-avian theropod dinosaurs. They are considered the most complex integumentary structures found in vertebrates, and indeed a premier example of a complex evolutionary novelty. They...

 is largely grey above, and off-white below. Adults have a white head with a broad black supercilium
Supercilium
The supercilium is a plumage feature found on the heads of some bird species. It is a stripe which runs from the base of the bird's beak above its eye, finishing somewhere towards the rear of the bird's head. Also known as an "eyebrow", it is distinct from the eyestripe, which is a line which runs...

 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 bittern
Bittern
Bitterns are a classification of birds in the heron family, Ardeidae, a family of wading birds. Species named bitterns tend to be the shorter-necked, often more secretive members of this family...

s, and distinguishes them from stork
Stork
Storks are large, long-legged, long-necked wading birds with long, stout bills. They belong to the family Ciconiidae. They are the only family in the biological order Ciconiiformes, which was once much larger and held a number of families....

s, crane
Crane (bird)
Cranes are a family, Gruidae, of large, long-legged and long-necked birds in the order Gruiformes. There are fifteen species of crane in four genera. Unlike the similar-looking but unrelated herons, cranes fly with necks outstretched, not pulled back...

s and spoonbill
Spoonbill
Spoonbills are a group of large, long-legged wading birds in the family Threskiornithidae, which also includes the Ibises.All have large, flat, spatulate bills and feed by wading through shallow water, sweeping the partly opened bill from side to side...

s, which extend their necks. The call is a loud croaking "fraaank". The Australian White-faced Heron
White-faced Heron
The White-faced Heron, Egretta novaehollandiae, also known as the White-fronted Heron, and incorrectly as the Grey Heron, or Blue Crane, is a common bird throughout most of Australasia, including New Guinea, the islands of Torres Strait, Indonesia, New Zealand, the islands of the Subantarctic, and...

 is often incorrectly called Grey Heron. In Ireland the grey heron is often colloquially called " crane ".

Taxonomy


There are four subspecies
Subspecies
Subspecies in biological classification, is either a taxonomic rank subordinate to species, ora taxonomic unit in that rank . A subspecies cannot be recognized in isolation: a species will either be recognized as having no subspecies at all or two or more, never just one...

:
  • Ardea cinerea cinerea Linnaeus
    Carolus Linnaeus
    Carl Linnaeus , also known after his ennoblement as , was a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, who laid the foundations for the modern scheme of binomial nomenclature. He is known as the father of modern taxonomy, and is also considered one of the fathers of modern ecology...

    , 1758. Europe
    Europe
    Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

    , Africa
    Africa
    Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

    , western Asia
    Asia
    Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

  • Ardea cinerea jouyi Clark, 1907. Eastern Asia
  • Ardea cinerea firasa Hartert, 1917. Madagascar
    Madagascar
    The Republic of Madagascar is an island country located in the Indian Ocean off the southeastern coast of Africa...

  • Ardea cinerea monicae Jouanin & Roux, 1963. Islands off Banc d'Arguin, Mauritania
    Mauritania
    Mauritania is a country in the Maghreb and West Africa. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the west, by Western Sahara in the north, by Algeria in the northeast, by Mali in the east and southeast, and by Senegal in the southwest...

    .


It is closely related and similar to the American Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron
The Great Blue Heron is a large wading bird in the heron family Ardeidae, common near the shores of open water and in wetlands over most of North and Central America as well as the West Indies and the Galápagos Islands. It is a rare vagrant to Europe, with records from Spain, the Azores and England...

, which differs in slightly larger size, and chestnut-brown flanks and thighs.

Food and feeding


It feeds in shallow water, catching fish
Fish
Fish are a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups...

, frog
Frog
Frogs are amphibians in the order Anura , formerly referred to as Salientia . Most frogs are characterized by a short body, webbed digits , protruding eyes and the absence of a tail...

s, and insects with its long bill. Herons will also take small mammal
Mammal
Mammals are members of a class of air-breathing vertebrate animals characterised by the possession of endothermy, hair, three middle ear bones, and mammary glands functional in mothers with young...

s, 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
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

, the Grey Heron has become a very common species in recent decades by moving into urban environments in great numbers. There, the herons hunt as they usually would but also make use of food discarded by humans, will visit feeding times in zoos to 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.

Breeding


This species breeds in colonies
Bird colony
A bird colony is a large congregation of individuals of one or more species of bird that nest or roost in close proximity at a particular location. Many kinds of birds are known to congregate in groups of varying size; a congregation of nesting birds is called a breeding colony...

 in trees close to lakes, the seashore or other wetlands, although it will also nest in reedbeds. It builds a bulky stick nest.

External links