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                Grey Heron

                Grey Heron

                Common Grey heron

                Kingdom
                Phylum
                Class
                Subclass
                Infraclass
                Superorder
                Family
                Genus
                SPECIES
                Ardea cinerea
                Life Span
                15-20 yrs
                TOP SPEED
                64 km/h
                WEIGHT
                1-2 kg
                HEIGHT
                84-102 cm
                WINGSPAN
                155-175 cm

                Grey herons are predominantly grey. Adults have white heads with long black feathers extending from the eyes to the neck, in the form of a large, impressive crest. Young birds have a crown of grey feathers up until their first winter, then they start to develop the adult's white forehead and black crest. They have yellow bills for most of the year, gaining an orange tint in the breeding season. In flight these herons pull their head into their body while stretching their legs out behind them.

                Video

                Distribution

                The Grey heron is fairly common in most parts of Europe, Asia and Africa. The northern dwellers migrate south during hard winters. It may reside in several types of habitats with either shallow fresh, salt or brackish water. It can be found in open regions, but requires trees for nesting. It can often be seen near rivers, marshes, lakes, and rice fields. On the coast, it is found in estuaries, tidal mudflats and mangroves.

                Grey Heron habitat map

                Geography

                Countries
                Albania, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Show More Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Comoros, Congo, DR Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guadeloupe, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, North Korea, South Korea, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macao, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Micronesia, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam, Western Sahara, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Australia, Palau, Afghanistan Show Less

                Climate zones

                Habits and Lifestyle

                Grey herons are usually solitary birds, but they form groups during the breeding season so they have a better chance of finding a mate. These birds are diurnal, and during the day, most often stay on the ground. Near dusk, they take cover in trees. Weather and the time of the day can affect their behavior. For example, in colder weather they will sleep for longer. In windy conditions, they rest rather than sleep. Grey herons generally feed alone and will defend their feeding area, but sometimes small groups will be feeding together where there is plenty of food.

                Diet and Nutrition

                The Grey heron feeds mostly on fish, but depending on the season and what is available, it also may eat amphibians, crustaceans, aquatic invertebrates, mollusks, snakes, small birds and rodent, and sometimes some plants.

                Mating Habits

                MATING BEHAVIOR
                REPRODUCTION SEASON
                February-May, early June
                INCUBATION PERIOD
                25-26 days
                INDEPENDENT AGE
                50 days
                FEMALE NAME
                hen
                MALE NAME
                cock
                BABY NAME
                chick
                BABY CARRYING
                1-10 eggs

                Grey herons are monogamous. They stay together for the breeding season, which extends from early February until May or early June. Each male will select a nest site at the beginning of the breeding season, most often in a tall tree. Females lay 1 to 10 eggs, laying every two days. Both parents incubate the eggs, for a period of 25-26 days. They take turns four times each day, after the same display. Chicks are fed by both parents, who look after them attentively, one of them staying at the nest for the first 20 days. Feeding is through regurgitation into the mouth. They can fly at about 50 days old, remaining for 10 to 20 more days more at the nest.

                Population

                Population threats

                Grey herons are hunted and trapped by people. It is threatened by changes in their habitat, including deforestation and drainage of wetlands.

                Population number

                Grey herons have a wide distribution and are relatively abundant, the estimated world population of adults being between 790,000 and 3,700,000 individuals, including 223,000-391,000 breeding pairs in Europe, c.100,000-1 million breeding pairs in China, c.100-10,000 breeding pairs in Korea; c.100,000-1 million breeding pairs in Japan and c.100,000-1 million breeding pairs in Russia. The overall population size seems to be stable.

                Ecological niche

                Grey herons are important for controlling fish populations in rivers, estuaries and further bodies of water. Their nests provide shelter for insects and rodents.

                Fun Facts for Kids

                • In medieval times the Grey heron was a popular quarry of falconers who admired its great flying skills in evading the falcon.
                • "Heron" comes from French. The Old English name was "hragra". Other names from past times include harn, hernshaw and hernser.
                • Heronries with multiple nests can become huge. One in Great Snowden's Wood, near Brede in Sussex, in 1866 had around 400 nests.
                • Herons suffer much in cold winters when streams and ponds remain frozen for a long time. Recent mild weather has seen an increase in population.

                References

                1. Grey Heron Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grey_heron
                2. Grey Heron on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/22696993/0

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