Grey Heron

Grey Heron

Key facts

Scientific name: Ardea cinerea

Status: Resident breeding species and winter migrant

Breeding birds: 13,000 nests

Wintering birds: 63,000

Conservation status: Green

Length: 90 – 98 cm

Wingspan: 175 – 195 cm

Weight: 1010 – 2080 g


During breeding season adult grey herons have grey upperparts with long paler feathers on the scapulars. Their flight feathers are black and their underparts are whiter. They have a white neck which is streaked with black and longer white feathers on the breast.

Grey herons’ head, crown, cheeks and chin are white and they have a broad black stripe that runs from the eyes to the nape.

Grey herons have a long, dagger like bill which is orange, yellow eyes and dark pink legs and feet.

Male and female grey herons look similar, while juveniles are greyer without the darker markings.


Grey herons breed in colonies sometimes with other species of birds. They build their nests in tall trees, reedbeds of bushes. The nest is a platform made of sticks and reeds lined with twigs and grasses. Males bring the building materials to the female who constructs the nest.

Grey herons lay up to 10 white or pale blue eggs. Both parents incubate the eggs for 25 days. Chicks are altricial and covered in grey down. They are fed by both parents by regurgitation. They fledge 50 days after hatching but remain at the nest for a further 10-20 days.


Grey herons mainly eat fish but will also take amphibians, crustaceans as well as small birds and mammals such as ducklings and voles. During harvest grey herons can sometimes be seen in fields looking for rodents.

Grey Heron

Where to see them

Grey herons can be seen all year round wherever there is water including park ponds, rivers, estuaries and lakes. They will also visit garden ponds.


Stanislas Wroza/xeno-canto

Did you know?

During medieval times it was believed that the fat of a grey heron killed at full moon was a cure for rheumatism.

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