Grey Heron Ardea cinerea   [Linnaeus, 1758]

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Order: Ciconiiformes Family: Ardeidae
BTO Codes: H., GREHE EURING No: 1220
Number in Britain: 12 thousand Pairs (Summer)
Conservation Status:
European: Not a species of concern
Global: (Details)
Status in UK: (A)  Resident Breeder, Winter Visitor
Subspecies: cinerea recorded in Britain (of 4 subsp. in the world)
Length: 94 cm Wingspan: 185 cm Weight: M/F: 1.5 kg    
Scientific name from: L.: ardea=a heron and L.: cinereus=ash-coloured (from cinis=ashes)
World Distribution: Much of Europe, Asia (except ne) through Indonesia and sub-Saharan Africa
Habitat: Lakes, marshes, rivers, flooded fields
Diet: Animals, esp fish, amphibians, small mammals, insects and reptiles
TitBit: In the 16th/17th Century hunting herons with Peregrines was high sport and kings identified 'their' birds by means of metal leg rings, in Scotland being caught poaching could mean losing a hand.  
Identification Tips:
  Images from IBC or search flickr
  Videos from IBC
  Sound from xeno-canto
Crossley ID photos

Population and Distribution

Population Trend: BirdTrends   
Regional Trends: Scotland   Wales   England   English Regions
Distribution: Atlas Mapstore   
British Population Size:
    Summer: 12 thousand Pairs in
    Winter: 61 thousand individuals in 2004/05 - 2008/09
    First Record: Recorded in Anglo-Saxon times [Fossil evidence from Devensian (last) glaciation, 10-120,000 yr ago]
    Latest Survey: Musgrove, A. et al. (2013) British Birds 106:64-100
    Conservation Status: GREEN
   Previous Assessments: 2002-2007 GREEN     1996-2001 GREEN  
   Races of Concern: cinerea GREEN
Habitat Occupancy (in the Breeding Season):
    Most frequent in: Along Rivers
    Also common in: Lakes
    And found in: Marsh, Estuaries, Ponds
Relative Frequency in Each Habitat:
Migration routes: Map of foreign ringing recoveries  and summary map from Time to Fly (in pop-up windows)
European Population Size:
    Summer: 185 to 230 thousand pairs   (Trend in Numbers)
Population Assesment from Birds in Europe
Distribution in Europe mapped by the EBCC Atlas
Listed on the Appendices/Schedules of: Bern(III)
Survey Results: Results from BirdTrack
Results from Heronries Survey

Breeding and Survival

Egg Size: 61 x 43 mm Egg Weight: 61.0 g (of which 8 % is shell)
Number of Nest Records: 369
Clutch Size: 3 - 4 eggs 3.66 ± 1.06 (2 - 7) N = 264
Incubation: 27- 27 days 26.95 ± 0.90 (26.5 - 28.5) N = 264   by the: Male + Female
Fledging: 50 - 55days 52.87 ± 2.62 (50 - 55) N = 1506 as: Altricial, downy
British Trust for Ornithology (2005) Nest Record Scheme data
First Clutches Laid: 12 Mar (19 Feb - 2 May)
Number of Broods: 1(2)
See trends in Breeding Productivity
Number Ringed: Annual Totals
Adult Survival: 0.732 ± 0.018       
Juvenile Survival: 0.260 (to age 2 )  
Age at First Breeding: 2 years Typical Lifespan: 5 years
Maximum Recorded Age: 23 years 9 months 2 days (set in 2003)
Read a summary of Ringing Recoveries


Ring Size: J
Wing Length Adult: Insufficient Data
Juvenile: Insufficient Data
Male: Insufficient Data
Female: Insufficient Data
Weight Adult: Insufficient Data
Juvenile: Insufficient Data
Male: Insufficient Data
Female: Insufficient Data

Other Names

Has Included Ardea herodias, Previously Casmerodius albus
Gaelic: Corra-ghritheach Welsh: Crëyr Glas
Danish: Fiskehejre Dutch: Blauwe reiger
Finnish: Harmaahaikara French: Héron cendré
German: Graureiher Hungarian: Szürke gém
Icelandic: Gráhegri Irish: Corr Réisc
Italian: Airone cenerino Norwegian: Gråhegre
Polish: Czapla siwa Portuguese: Garça-real
Spanish: Garza real Swedish: Häger
Local Names: Harnser, Frank
Collective Noun:Siege (Breeding coloony=Heronry)

For More Information...

Books and Monographs:
   Voisin, C. 1991 The herons of Europe Poyser, London [598.461 VOI]
   Lowe, F. 1954 The heron Collins, London [598.461 LOW]
   Kushlan, J.A. & Hancock, J. 2005 The Herons Oxford University Press [598.461 KUS]
See Also:
Find scientific papers on Google Scholar or Scirus by clicking the icon
Wikipedia entry
HBW account (subscription required)
BirdLife species page
Recent sightings and information from BirdGuides