Grey heron

(Ardea cinerea)




Facts about this animal

The Grey heron is a large heron species with a body lenght of 90-98 cm and a wingspan of 175-195 cm. They have a long, curved neck, a long pointed bill and long legs. The neck, head and belly are white or greyish-white. There is a long black crest behind the eye and a black stripe running from neck to breast. The back and wings are grey. Non-breeding adults have brownish-yellow legs and bill.
It has a slow flight, with its long neck retracted in a s-shape.

It feeds mainly on fish, but diet varies with habitat and season. Amphibians, crabs, molluscs, crustaceans, aquatic insects, snakes, small rodents, and some birds are also taken.

The grey heron seems to be better adapted to cold than any other heron species, but it is equally successful in the subtropics and tropics, where it readily breeds in mixed species heronries.

Did you know?
that, in former times, grey herons were hunted for food? An English publication of 1545, entitled the “Propre New Booke of Cokery”, noted that herons, cranes and other large waterfowl could be eaten throughout the year, but were best hunted in winter. Falconers used to fly peregrines at herons, though they were generally flown in a 'cast' (i. e. two or three birds). The heron was rarely killed, the peregrines 'binding' to the heron and bringing it down to earth, whereupon falconer on horseback would ride up and collect the heron. One example: In the year 1630, the three falconers employed by Count Georg II of Hessen-Kassel caught no less than 121 grey herons.


Class AVES
Suborder ARDEAE
Name (Scientific) Ardea cinerea
Name (English) Grey heron
Name (French) Héron cendré
Name (German) Graureiher
Name (Spanish) Garza real
Local names Afrikaans: Bloureier
Czech: Volavka popelavá
Dutch: Blauwe reiger
Finnish: Harmaahaikara
Greek: Stachtotsikniás
Hungarian: Szürke gém
Italian: Airone cenerino
Polish: Czapla siwa
Portuguese: Garça-real
Romansh: Irun grisch
Swedish: Grå häger
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed Included in AEWA



Photo Copyright by
Björn Kreis



Range Native throughout temperate Europe and Asia and in Africa.
Habitat Very variable habitat, found in and near any kind of shallow water (rivers, lakes, marshes, floodplains, ricefields, coasts, deltas, estuaries, tidal mudflats or mangroves), but also on open grassland. Generally prefers areas with some trees.
Wild population Common and widespread, even expanding its range (Red List IUCN 2011).
Zoo population 96 reported to ISIS (2007)

In the Zoo

Grey heron


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 17 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Lukasz Lukasik

Why do zoos keep this animal

Within their natural range, there is not really a need for keeping grey herons in aviaries or under flight restraint conditions because the species will readily chose the safe haven of zoological gardens as their habitat and often will establish large breeding colonies.

One of the largest colonies at a zoo is the one at Tierpark Ueckermünde in Northern Germany which comprises more than 300 breeding pairs.