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Grey Heron Interesting Bird Facts

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grey heron

The grey heron is a large, gray bird with long white-gray neck. It has a black band through the eye, culminating in a crest, a yellow dagger-shaped bill and tall brown legs. The grey heron belongs to the heron family and is the most familiar and common representative of this family.

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How can you recognize the grey heron?

It is a large bird, length about 90- 98 cm, gray to blue-gray upperparts, wings and tail, the primaries are black
white head with black band through eye, ending in extended black plume. They have a long white neck with longitudinal stripes and a yellow, dagger-shaped bill (sometimes reddish in breeding season) with long, brown legs.
There is hardly any difference between male and female.

grey heron

What does the grey heron eat?

The grey heron prefers fish but is by no means picky. Amphibians (frogs), reptiles (ring snakes), insects, worms, young birds and small mammals (moles, mice, rats) are also on the menu. Especially when fish are less available or inaccessible.

Where does the grey heron live?

The grey heron is native throughout temperate Europe and Asia and also parts of Africa. The grey heron is widely distributed, ranging from meadows to even in cities, but always near water. Ditches, wet meadows, canals, streams, lakes and coasts are its natural habitat. There it vigilantly searches for food. The grey heron breeds in colonies in tall trees and in remote forest plots or reed beds.

How does the grey heron reproduce?

Grey herons usually breed in large or smaller colonies. The rather large, flat nests are built up to very high in trees, unlike most other waterfowl. This makes them better protected from predation. The downside is that sometimes a young does fall down, but this increases the survival rate of the other young by giving them more food from the parents. Both the male and female incubate the eggs. The clutch (one per year) usually consists of 3- 5 eggs.

How do you get to see the grey heron?

While flying, you can recognize its moderately fast flight by the slow, powerful wing beats on slightly flattened wings. Here the neck is s-shaped retracted and the legs stick out behind the body.

Often the grey heron stands huddled, motionless but very alert in or beside water or in a meadow and then suddenly strikes with lightning speed with its dagger-shaped beak when it has discovered prey.

Facts about the grey heron

Contrary to what is sometimes told, herons do not have oil on their legs to attract fish to them. Grey herons are simply very patient and also have razor-sharp eyes.

Like kingfishers, grey herons must take into account the refraction of water. It takes a lot of practice before young birds can fish successfully. But with time, they become expert at this. In the beginning, they also practice on twigs and other objects.

Herons always have a “comb at hand”: on the inside of the nail of the middle toe is a comb, a serrated edge. This allows them to better maintain their feathers.

Adult grey herons are clearly distinguishable from young birds. You can recognize them by their snow-white forehead; in young birds this is gray.

Since the 1970s, the grey heron has been protected in Belgium.

What can you do for the grey heron?

Grey herons benefit most from good water quality and natural riparian vegetation. Conservationists and governments are working hard on this. During very harsh winters, grey herons themselves switch to moles and mice and sometimes other birds. They know well which streams and water bodies stay open the longest (e.g., due to flow) or freeze less quickly.