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.
|Name (Scientific)||Ardea cinerea|
|Name (English)||Grey heron|
|Name (French)||Héron cendré|
|Name (Spanish)||Garza real|
|Local names||Afrikaans: Bloureier
Czech: Volavka popelavá
Dutch: Blauwe reiger
Hungarian: Szürke gém
Italian: Airone cenerino
Polish: Czapla siwa
Romansh: Irun grisch
Swedish: Grå häger
|CITES Status||Not listed|
|CMS Status||Not listed Included in AEWA|
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|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
How this animal should be transported
For air transport, Container Note 17 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.
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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.