The Gray Heron is a large, wading bird called such because of its grayish feathers – ash-grey on top and grayish-white on the bottom.
Its head is white and black, and its neck is white with long feathers down its chest. Its bill is long and pinkish-yellow. Its legs are long and brown.
Males and females look alike, but females are generally smaller. Juveniles have dull grey heads, dark grey crowns, and overall grey coloring.
Gray Herons also look similar to the Great Blue Herons, except that Great Blue Herons are larger and have brown flanks and thighs.
- Ardea cinerea
- Length: 33 – 40 in (84 – 102 cm)
- Weight: 35.2 – 73.6 oz (997 – 2085 g)
- Wingspan: 61 – 77 in (155 – 195 cm)
Gray Herons’ usual range is Europe, Asia, and Africa, but they have been vagrants into North America more regularly.
Habitat And Diet
You can find Gray Herons anywhere with water and fish, such as lakes, reservoirs, small and large rivers, marshes, ponds, flooded areas, coastal lagoons, estuaries, and the seashore.
Gray herons are considered apex predators because of their large size and the speed with which they capture prey in the water.
They can be very still as they observe their prey, and when they’re within striking distance, they strike accurately and skillfully with their long, strong bills.
Bigger prey is stabbed by the bill and beaten into submission on land.
Sometimes, they drown or suffocate their prey or break their necks before being eaten whole (sounds gruesome!).
Gray Heron Calls:
Nests of Gray Herons are usually situated high up in trees and close to water. They reuse their nests year after year, so they tend to grow big in size with the addition of more materials.
Males are in charge of finding the nesting material while females build the nests. The females then lay three to five eggs which the parents take turns incubating for about twenty-six days. When they hatch, parents regurgitate fish to feed them.
It’s easy to distinguish Gray Herons in flight because they fly with their heads pulled back and their long necks retracted into an S-shape. Other herons fly with their necks extended.