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© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki, Jouko Lehmuskallio, Kari Pihlaviita, M. & W. von Wright: Svenska fåglar (Kansalliskirjasto, The National Library of Finland). Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.

Grey Heron

Ardea cinerea

  • Name also: Gray Heron
  • Family: Herons – Ardeidae
  • Appearance: A large, sturdily built heron, predominantly grey in colouring, with a strong straight dagger-like beak. Herons can be distinguished from Cranes in flight and often also when standing by the way they hunch up their necks.
  • Size: Length 84–102 cm, wingspan 155–175 cm, weight 930–1,150 g.
  • Nest: A large untidy pile of sticks, usually built high up in a spruce or pine tree. Birds may use the same nest for many years.
  • Breeding: 6 eggs laid in May, incubated alternately by parents for 4–6 spells for 25–28 days. Young birds learn to fly within about 50 days. Many Grey Herons nest in colonies.
  • Distribution: A scarce breeding summer migrant in Finland (numbering only about 100 pairs). In recent years winter sightings have become more common.
  • Migration: Winters in Western and Southern Europe. Autumn migration may occur between mid August and early November, with birds returning March–May.
  • Diet: Lurks motionlessly in ambush along shores, waiting for fish and small aquatic animals to pass within reach.
  • Calls: An unpleasant, harsh screech, similar to call of Caspian Tern.

Grey Herons have pale grey upperparts and greyish white underparts. Their heads are mainly white, except for a black stripe extending from above their eyes to the back of their necks, where some of their feathers are elongated to form a crest. Adults in breeding plumage may have pinkish colouring on the sides of their necks, and a few rows of dark streaks on their necks and chests. Grey Herons have yellow or yellowish orange beaks, dull brown legs and yellow irises.

Immature Grey Herons generally resemble adults, but have more grey colouring on their caps and necks (and no pinkish colouring on the neck). Their beaks are more brownish and their irises are white.

Other species from the same family

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