Ardea cinerea Linnaeus, 1758
* Systema Naturae ed.10 p.143
The Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea), is a wading bird of the heron family Ardeidae, native throughout temperate Europe and Asia and also parts of Africa. It is resident in the milder south and west, but many birds retreat in winter from the ice in colder regions. It has become common in summer even inside the Arctic circle along the Norwegian coast.
It is a large bird, standing 90-100 cm tall, with a 175-195 cm wingspan and a weight of 1-2 kg. Its plumage is largely grey above, and off-white below. Adults have a white head with a broad black supercilium and slender crest, while immatures have a dull grey head. It has a powerful, pinkish-yellow bill, which is brighter in breeding adults. It has a slow flight, with its long neck retracted (S-shaped). This is characteristic of herons and bitterns, and distinguishes them from storks, cranes and spoonbills, which extend their necks. The call is a loud croaking "fraaank". The Australian White-faced Heron is often incorrectly called Grey Heron.
There are four subspecies:
* Ardea cinerea cinerea Linnaeus, 1758. Europe, Africa, western Asia
It is closely related and similar to the American Great Blue Heron, which differs in slightly larger size, and chestnut-brown flanks and thighs.
Food and feeding
In the Netherlands, the Grey Heron has become a very common species in recent decades by moving into urban environments in great numbers. There, the herons hunt as they usually would but also make use of food discarded by humans, will visit feeding times in zoos to birds such as penguins and pelicans and some individuals even make use of people feeding them at their homes.
This species breeds in colonies in trees close to lakes, the seashore or other wetlands, although it will also nest in reedbeds. It builds a bulky stick nest.
1. ^ BirdLife International (2008). Ardea cinerea. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 9 February 2009. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern.
* Handbook of the Birds of the World 1: 405. Lynx Edicions.
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