Gray Heron - description, habitat, interesting facts


Gray heron beautiful and very careful bird. All the time being on the alert was forced by the sad experience of ancestors who almost disappeared from the face of the Earth in the past. In the mating season, birds have especially beautiful plumage on the head. These trophies have long been hunted by people, not giving herons the opportunity to sit their offspring. Ladies used hunted feathers as decoration for their hats. Thanks to the time taken measures for the protection of birds, herons are now living and breeding.

Gray Heron: Description

Talking about these creatures is a pleasure! They are graceful and beautiful, there is in them some kind of aristocracy in appearance. Heron is a large, long-legged bird. The weight of an adult individual reaches 2 kg, the length is 90-100 cm, and the wingspan reaches 175-200 cm. The head of a heron is rather narrow, adorned with a huge beak, pinkish with yellowness, resembling a dagger more than what the birds use with their nose and mouth. On the back there is a "pigtail", a black bunch of feathers hanging down. The neck is very long and flexible; it bends back during the flight. The head, neck and underparts of the body are dirty-white, with dark mottles visible from the front. The color of the feathers of the rest of the body is gray with blue. The paws are also gray with a yellow tint. In the mating season, the bird looks very beautiful, the color of the beak becomes much brighter and the famous “pigtail” blooms.

Gray Heron Habitat

This beautiful bird can be found in the benign climate of Europe and Asia, the African continent can also boast such inhabitants. In countries where the water in water bodies freezes in winter, the gray heron flies off to spend the winter in Africa. Russia is also on the list of cold countries, so the birds spend only 6-7 months here, bring their offspring and fly off to a hot country for a holiday to ostriches and hippos, but in the spring we meet them again. The colony of gray herons does not change their place of residence, these birds are very devoted to their nesting sites.

Common places inhabited by birds - the banks of various reservoirs, such as rivers, lakes, streams, marshes. There is no difference, as long as there is water, even if it is still fresh, even salty. There is only one condition when choosing a reservoir, it must be with shallow water, which serves as a heron for a kind of dining room where it feeds.

Can a heron sing?

Gray Heron, the description of which allows you to present a beautiful, long-legged, proud bird, unfortunately, is deprived of voice. Simply put, she does not know how to sing, quite the contrary, from her screams I want to close my ears. Especially if you are lucky enough to be close to the colony of these pseudo-singers, they behave very noisy there. The time of the perch and feeding of chicks is accompanied by their loud cries, they also like to shout during the flight, often at dusk. Herons make hoarse, harsh and croaking sounds, which are heard as "fraark". These are the performers of songs!

The artful hunter bird heron

All over the world they know that the heron is considered the most dexterous hunter. This bird is looking for prey in shallow water. Due to the beautiful sight and sharp, like a dagger, long beak, the gray earner never remains without food. None of the water small fry is immune from lightning strike.

The feathered predator is slowly and silently moving through its “canteen” on the water, trying to look out for prey. If too much of the victim is caught, the gray heron, without becoming confused, immediately hits it with its beak with force or shakes its head from side to side, trying to kill it before it dines.

The bird swallows its prey entirely headfirst. The diet of the gray heron is quite diverse, but you can’t call it a vegetarian. Her favorite food is fish, eels, tailless amphibians. In addition to these delicacies, insects, reptiles, crustaceans and small rodents can enter the heron menu.

Mating season

Gray Heron is very interesting behaves in the mating season. The nest is built by a male. If the birds wintered elsewhere, then the stronger sex of the birds comes first to the nesting area and immediately tries to occupy a better nest. If it does not, the male, like a real man, will build it himself.

The next stage of the marriage ceremony is that the female, after looking at the male with a good “house”, flies up to him, asking for a wife, but for the first time he will definitely drive her away. To achieve the location of the owner of the nest, the bride must show perseverance and patience. Having chased the female several times in a row, the male will finally let her into his territory. This kind of matchmaking ends there, and the couple creates a family, but such a marriage lasts no longer than a year. For the next season the birds are waiting for new games and other partners.

Gray herons are exemplary parents

The gray heron breeds chicks only once a year, and in those rare cases when the offspring did not work, a second attempt is made. These long-legged birds are exemplary parents, their care for offspring is displayed at the very beginning, when the nest is just being built. The “home” of the gray heron is a whole impregnable fortress, at the same time it is a reliable and cozy refuge for chicks. The nest is very large, about 80 cm in diameter, about 60 cm in height, the middle is covered with reeds and grass. Housing is built at high altitude.

Eggs are laid one after another every 2 days, a total of 3 to 5 eggs hatch. In the hatching, which lasts 26 days, take part and dad and mom. The appeared chicks are covered with a gray down; the plumage begins to appear in about a week.

For 20 days, caring parents never leave the babies alone in the nest, nursing them one by one, so that neither the rain nor the scorching sun will harm the chicks. When kids want to eat, they begin to knock on their parents' beaks with small beaks. Dad on duty or mom on duty burp their food right into their beak. Little gray herons begin to fly after 50-55 days.

These long-legged birds got used to being cautious and do not allow a person closer than 200 m to themselves, but the scientists managed to lift the veil and find out a lot of interesting things from the life of the gray heron. The animal world is so beautiful and so fascinating!


In Eurasia, this bird is very widespread. She does not live only in the desert and in the mountains at high altitude. They also live in southeast Asia. In the south, the gray heron habitat extends to the Mediterranean Sea. Representatives of the species can be found in some areas of the African continent. They live in the southern and eastern parts of the country, in Madagascar and the Maldives.

High in the mountains you will not meet this bird. The maximum height at which they fly is 1000 m. They live near fresh water bodies, sometimes near seas or lakes with salt water. Hunting bird in shallow water.

Representatives of the species, who live in the center and in the south of Europe, constantly live on the same territory, only occasionally flying to more southern regions. Those individuals who live on the territory of modern Russia fly to warm Africa for the winter. And those populations, whose permanent habitat is the territory of Central Asia, fly to China, India.

What are the subspecies

Herons that live in different territories are divided into subspecies. We list the main ones.

  1. Ardea cinerea cinerea - this subspecies lives in Eurasia. Their habitat spreads from western Europe to Zauralye.
  2. In Madagascar there are gray herons belonging to such a species as Ardea cinerea firasa.
  3. Ardea cinerea monicae - on the coast of Mauritania.

Gender differences

Distinguishing between different sexes is not easy, even if we look at them closely. But they differ in size. Therefore, if you meet two individuals of different sexes that are nearby, you can determine the sex. In males, the wing is longer - 46 cm, and the length of the beak usually exceeds 12 cm. In females, these parts of the body are shorter by several centimeters or more.


Gray Heron is a monogamous bird species. This means that they form a pair and remain true throughout life. Already at the age of a year or two, individuals become sexually mature.

During the mating season, their beak acquires a brighter color, orange or pink. At other times it is gray. In addition, other parts of the body of the birds become brighter. It occurs in both sexes.

Herons that live in cold or temperate climates fly away for the winter. They return with a thaw, which occurs in the second half of March or early April. As soon as the birds return to their nesting sites after wintering, they begin to build the nest. Populations that live in warmer areas and do not migrate to winter, do not have any specific breeding season.

First, the male begins to equip the nest, and then - to call the female. This ritual in birds is very unusual. When a male gray heron calls for a female, he makes a croaking sound, while spreading his wings and pointing his beak upwards. The female comes to his cry, but the male does not let her, driving away from the nest. This happens several times. But, in this case, the later the female responds to the call, the sooner he will cease to chase her. If 2 weeks or more has passed since the beginning of the arrangement by the male of the nest, the pair will be formed immediately. After that, they complete the arrangement of the nest together.

Nest representatives of this species are placed on very tall trees or large bushes. The material are twigs, twigs and reed stem. The nest is conical in shape, flat, pointed downwards. Its diameter is 65-80 cm, and the height is about half a meter. Representatives of this species become attached to their nest. From year to year they return to the same place to produce offspring.

On average, the female lays about 5 eggs. But sometimes their number ranges from 3 to 9. They are blue and white spots. Eggs are often pointed from two sides. Every 2 days a gray heron lays an egg. Hatching them begins as soon as the first appears. Eggs are hatched by each partner in turn.

After 27 days, the chicks hatch. They have no plumage and need the full care of their parents. Only a week later, the first feathers begin to appear. Three times a day, the gray heron belches food from its stomach, and feeds its young. But it often happens that not everyone gets food. This leads to the fact that older, stronger chicks can simply eat the younger ones. Sometimes they can just steal food from them.

When the age of chicks is approaching a month, they are trying to take off for the first time and start learning how to hunt. After another 2 months, individuals begin to live independently.

Bird voice

Representatives of this species make rude sounds that resemble rattle. They seem to croak, but very low and short. Such a bird makes a sound during the flight. This loud cry is heard quite far away. By this scream, the bird's approach can be recognized much earlier than it will be in sight. When she is about to land, she makes a strong, sharp cry several times, which also resembles a rattle.

Heron may make other sounds. Most often they can be heard when the birds are in the colonies and not far from their nest, since individually they usually remain silent. The alarm signal, which is issued by the representative of the gray heron species, is a gaggle. When a bird shows aggression and expresses a threat, a prolonged vibrating cry is issued.

Interesting Facts

  • Representatives of the gray heron species have a special system of unique signals that allow them to communicate. The bird is able to express various emotions. The presence of a long neck helps her in this. When a bird is threatened, it arches its neck, as if it is about to rush forward. Tuft, located on the head, rises. This is followed by a scream.
  • There is also a welcome signal. It manifests itself in the click of a beak when the bird sees its fellows. They also behave during the marriage ritual.
  • The meat of this bird is quite possible to eat. Sometimes hunters shoot a heron to taste it. But according to reviews, it does not have a pleasant taste, so hunting for these birds is not very common.
  • It used to be quite popular falconry, the object of which was often chosen precisely gray heron.
  • Gray Heron: Description

    This is one of the largest representatives of the family. The bird's weight reaches two kilograms, the body length is slightly more than a meter, the wingspan is from 1.5 to 1.75 m. The bird's head is narrow, decorated with a large pinkish beak, resembling a dagger. It is very sharp and long - up to thirteen centimeters.

    On the nape there is a “pigtail” - a black bunch of feathers hanging down. The neck is long and very flexible. The head, neck and lower body are painted in a dirty white color, dark mottles are visible in front. On the rest of the body, feathers are painted gray with a bluish tint. The paws are also gray, but have a yellow tint.

    In the mating season, the gray heron looks particularly impressive: the beak becomes much brighter, and the characteristic pigtail is dissolved. The iris is yellow with a greenish tinge. Around the eyes are non-feathered greenish rings.

    In flight, a gray heron folds its neck, which takes the shape of the letter S in such a way that the head rests on its back. The legs are pulled far beyond the end of the tail. That is why the silhouette of a flying bird is somewhat humpback, with a protrusion that forms the bend of the neck. This is the main difference between herons and other long-necked birds - cranes, storks, which keep their necks straight in flight, and their head protrudes far ahead.

    On the belly, chest and groin, the tips of the feathers often break off and crumble into small scales, turning into a special powder with which the herons sprinkle the feathers. This procedure is necessary so that they do not stick together from the fish mucus. Ornithologists call this powder powders, which are present in all species of herons. This peculiar heron powder is applied with an elongated claw with notches on the middle finger.

    Sexual dimorphism in the color of the gray heron is absent, the birds differ only in size: males are significantly larger than females.


    And now find out where the gray heron lives. This species is common in Asia and Europe: from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, the Japanese Islands and to Sakhalin, in the south to Sri Lanka and North-West Africa, in the north to Yakutsk and St. Petersburg. Nest usually in Madagascar. Hibernates in many regions of India, Indochina and Africa.

    Probably, many of our readers well remember the penetrating performance by Nikita Mikhalkov of the song in the film “Cruel Romance”, in which there are such lines:

    "Shaggy bumblebee - on fragrant hops,

    Gray Heron - in the reeds ... "

    Indeed, in many regions, the heron of this species prefers to build nests in reeds, for example in Turkmenistan. In addition, their nests can be seen in the trees.

    Gray Heron: type of chicks

    It should be noted that gray herons are wonderful parents. All concerns for breeding offspring they divide equally. Together they build a nest in trees, large bushes, in the thickets of reeds or reeds. It has the shape of an upside-down cone.

    With an interval of two days, the female lays from four to six eggs, which are painted in greenish-blue color. Like all members of the calf detachment, the brood of this species is of the chick type. In other words, the chicks are born naked and completely helpless, but at the same time sighted. From the first minutes they need care and increased attention of their parents.

    After the first egg is laid, the parents start brooding it, and the female and the male alternate between them. Perhaps that is why the firstborn is always the largest. When all the chicks hatch, caring parents feed them together. After seven or nine days, the first feathers appear in the chicks, and after two weeks they are on their feet.


    For the most part the bird is a gray heron - migratory or migratory. Only in some places she lives sedentary. In Russia, the gray heron is a typical long-distance migrant. An analysis of ringing conducted by ornithologists showed that the wintering grounds of the gray heron are scattered over a vast territory. For example, from Western Siberia and the European part of Russia, a large number of herons flies over to the winter to Africa, south of the Sahara desert.

    Another part of this population does not go on such a long journey and remains to winter in the countries of Southern and Western Europe. In Southeast and South Asia, in Africa, on the Malayan Archipelago, the heron is gray or has a settled or nomadic way of life. Most often herons migrate in small groups, but sometimes they gather in large flocks of up to two hundred and fifty birds. Solitary herons on the passage are extremely rare.

    Flight for wintering

    These birds fly at a rather high altitude, not only during the day, but at night. Autumn migration is usually done at dusk, after sunset, and during the day, flocks stop to rest and eat. When taking off, the big gray heron makes very quick beats of its wings, and its legs hang freely in the air. Набрав нужную высоту, птица подбирает ноги и дальше летит плавно, с размеренными движениями крыльев. Иногда она недолго парит в воздухе.

    В полете стаи цапли образуют прямую линию или клин. Гнездятся серые цапли колониями, в которых бывает до двадцати гнезд. In Europe, where now these birds are protected, there are huge colonies consisting of thousands of nests. However, there are cases of separate nesting pairs. Sometimes the colonies are mixed: other types of herons, spoonbills, ibis settle in them. In the middle zone of our country, where other species of herons and ibis are not found, monovid colonies are formed.

    Gray Heron can be active at any time of the day, they can not be called neither day nor night birds. During long-term observations, it was established that the time of these birds is distributed as follows:

    • 77% of the time they hunt and stay awake
    • 5.9% of the time the birds sleep,
    • 16.6% are engaged in hygienic procedures.

    Interesting data, is not it? The heron stands a significant part of its life, without moving, drawing its neck, on one leg, and the other is pressing.

    The gray herons have a well-developed system of visual signals. A long and flexible neck can express different emotions. For example, threatening the enemy, a heron arches a neck, as if preparing for a throw, and lifts a tuft on his head. Usually such a pose is accompanied by a threatening cry. When birds greet each other, they quickly snap their beaks. Such a click can be heard during the marriage ritual.

    While resting, the head of a heron is hidden between the shoulder blades. Despite the rather large size, heron is not easy to notice in natural conditions. A not very experienced and attentive researcher will notice her only when he comes close to her. Heron at this moment straightens the neck, utters loudly “Krak” and immediately soars into the sky.

    The diet of the gray heron is only animal food. It is an active, agile and extremely voracious predator. Any land or aquatic animal with which the heron is able to physically cope becomes its prey. But since these birds spend most of their life by the reservoirs, it is not hard to guess what the gray heron eats.

    The dominant position in their diet is fish, no longer than twenty-five centimeters and weighing no more than five hundred grams. The heron will not refuse gray frogs, various insects, crustaceans, mollusks. On land, it is usually lizards and small rodents, snakes, large grasshoppers, beetles and locusts.

    How does a heron hunt?

    The gray heron is a very agile and agile hunter. And in her arsenal there are many ways to hunt, and they are all quite diverse. Interestingly, different individuals prefer to use their own methods of obtaining food. Most often, a heron stands motionless or slowly wanders through shallow water, looking out for its victim.

    Then the head is thrown on the fully straightened neck - and the prey is in the beak of the bird. Sometimes during such a hunt, they open their wings. Perhaps in this way they scare the prey or shade the water to make it easier to see the prey.

    Gray herons are also seen in unseemly deeds: they are not averse to stealing prey from their neighbors (gulls, cormorants). But sometimes they are robbed by clever crows. Gray herons can hunt without moving away from the colony, but can fly over long distances (up to thirty kilometers).


    The repertoire of gray herons is quite diverse, although ornithologists refer to these silent birds. Most often, you can hear a rough and slightly rasping scream, resembling a short crowing of a crow. It is published by herons, as a rule, on the fly. It can be heard at a great distance.

    All other sounds of gray herons emit into colonies during nesting. A short gag is an alarm signal, a lingering vibrating throat sound speaks of aggression. Deaf short croaking means that a male is present in the pack. Birds that congregate into large groups within the colony constantly “negotiate” among themselves, making croaking and croaking cries.

    Conservation status

    Today, the number of gray herons is quite high in almost all areas of its vast range. Nowadays, in accordance with international status, this bird belongs to species whose existence does not cause serious concerns. The total number of this species, according to the latest data, ranges from seven hundred thousand to three and a half million individuals. The most numerous populations of this bird in Russia, Japan and China.

    More recently, it was a rare species in need of protection. Gray Heron in the Kirov region, for example, in 2001 was entered into the regional Red Book. But already in the new edition (2011) this species was excluded from the list of protected ones, since their number in the region was restored.

    However, in some regions of Russia, the gray heron is still a rarity. The Red Book of Kamchatka is replenished with this species, in accordance with the agreement between Russia, India and Japan on the protection of migratory birds.

    Description and features of herons. What does a heron look like?

    Types of herons differ not only in color, but also in growth. Heron sizes vary in a wide range: for example, a small heron reaches a height of no more than 40-60 cm, and a large heron comes in sizes up to 1.5 meters.

    The average weight of these birds is 2.5 kilograms. In birds of different species most often monochromatic color. Heron is white, red, black, gray, and sometimes two-tone. Mostly herons have dark paws and a yellow beak, but sometimes there are black herons with herons. The plumage of birds is smooth, and the head of a heron is often decorated with a tuft, the size of which depends on the species of bird, but not a tuft is present in all species.

    The head of the heron is on the long neck, which they pull out during the hunt. The beak of a heron is long and straight. Such a structure of a heron's beak makes it easy to catch and hold slippery fish.

    On thin and long legs there are tenacious fingers, and a tail is sharp and short. A heron walks in large steps, about 0.5 meters, and during the search for food, her steps become smaller, up to 25 cm long.

    Heron is a bird leading a near-water lifestyle. She does not dive, does not swim, as her feathers easily become wet. All waterfowl have a tailbone gland, due to which fat is released, which does not give the birds to get wet. Unlike waterfowl, the heron does not have one, so the feathers of the heron are not protected from getting wet.

    The maximum lifespan of herons is 23 years.

    Types of herons.

    In general, there are about 14 species of herons. The most famous among these species are:

    • Great Blue Heron,
    • Gray Heron,
    • Black heron
    • Black-necked heron,
    • Red Heron,
    • Great Egret.

    Great White Heron was added to the Red Book, but later it was possible to restore its numbers.

    Where does the heron live?

    Heron is a bird living around the world with the exception of the polar regions and Antarctica. The heron lives in various reservoirs, such as lakes, rivers, swamps, reed beds and wet meadows. Nests of herons are built on twigs of tree branches. Many of the bird species are kept in small groups. These colonies may charge a different number of individuals. The peculiarity of herons is that the birds do not get together in dense flocks, but prefer simply to be close to each other. In places where there is little food, a flock of herons settles at a remote distance, and large colonies live only in places rich in forage. The gigantic heron and several more species of herons live only one by one.

    Basically, the heron lives in the swamp. Marsh herons are chosen depending on the time of year, in summer - with fresh water, in winter - coastal wetlands with salt water.

    What eats heron?

    A heron is a bird that feeds on near-water and aquatic animals such as frogs, snakes, insects, newts, tadpoles, fish, mollusks, fry and crustaceans. In addition, she can eat other chicks, small rodents, or attack a small hare or rabbit. Birds hunt from ambush. They walk in shallow water and seek out the victim, and sometimes stand in one place for a long time and attack at an opportunity. There are herons that accompany large animals, such as buffaloes, rhinos, and elephants, hoping to profit from scared insects.

    Why does the heron stand on one leg?

    Both adults and children often wonder why the heron is standing on one leg. Heron is a bird with a special structure of the knee joint. When her leg unbends, a kind of lock is turned on, and therefore the bird can stand for a very long time, giving rest to the second leg. Pressing the leg to the body, the heron warms it, because the water in the pond can be cold. Moreover, such a heron pose is a good disguise when hunting, because the second leg of the bird does not stand out, and the victims of the heron take it for grass or reed. It is worth a heron for a long time and does not move, catching prey in the pond, and then at the right moment pierces and captures it with its long beak.