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Interesting facts about the gray heron

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We found 19 interesting facts about the gray heron

Ardea cinerea

This large and interesting waterfowl appears in Poland during the breeding season and can only be found in the north-west of the country all year round. This is a very voracious species with a very wide range of food. It happens that even birds up to 25 cm in size become victims of herons. This is not an endangered species, and the Polish population of the gray heron is estimated at 18-20 to 25 thousand individuals.


The gray heron is a bird from the heron family.

To date, 64 species have been described in the heron family. These are waterfowl, until recently considered relatives of storks, but genetic tests have shown that they are closer to pelicans.

Lives in Eurasia and Africa.

He resides throughout the British Isles and from France to Germany. In Asia - from India to the South China Sea and Japan, and in Africa - in the south and southwest, including Madagascar. Winters in central and northern Africa, southern Europe, Thailand and Vietnam. Breeding species in Central Europe and Central Asia.

These are migratory birds, they even travel to the other side of the Atlantic.

They can be found in the Caribbean, Bermuda, Greenland, Iceland and Newfoundland.

Their natural habitat is areas near water bodies.

They live on lakes, rivers, ponds, ditches, floodplains, swamps, estuaries and on the sea coast. They are most often found in lowlands, but also live in higher places. Interestingly, the gray heron is sometimes found even in desert areas, where it hunts beetles and lizards.

These are large waterfowl, reaching a body length of 84 to 102 cm.

The wingspan of the gray heron is from 155 to 195 cm, the standing height is 100 cm. Weight is from 1 to 2 kg.

As their name suggests, their plumage is steel gray in color.

The neck and head are white, with a bluish-black stripe running from the eyes to the back of the head, topped with a large crest. Their head is equipped with a pink-yellow long and straight beak, and the iris is yellow. The beak is ⅔ of the length of the skull. There are rows of vertical black lines on the neck. The legs are long and brown.

During the breeding season, the color of the gray heron's beak becomes more saturated.

It is yellow most of the year, but during the short mating season it turns orange.

Their flight is very characteristic, the neck is bent and the head is pulled towards the body.

This feature distinguishes herons from cranes and storks.

These are carnivores, most often feeding on what they find nearby or directly in the body of water.

Their diet consists of invertebrates, fish, amphibians, snakes, small birds and mammals. It happens that a heron hunts small ducks or other birds with a body size of up to 25 cm.

They swallow small prey whole, and tear larger prey into pieces.

Large prey is carried ashore, where the heron overpowers it and eats it piece by piece, pecking and tearing out pieces of meat. In the case of small birds and mammals, herons can grab them with their beaks and plunge them under water to drown the victim.


Herons usually search for prey in the water, but sometimes on land.

They usually stand still and wait until the prey gets close enough. Apparently, they are most effective when hunting on moonlit, cloudless nights.

Their breeding season begins at the end of February and lasts until the beginning of June.

At first, males look for a convenient place to build a nest, most often in the branches of tall trees, but sometimes on the ground. They are built from any available material, most often from branches and grass. After the nest is built, the period of calling females begins, and when they are nearby, the males begin to flap and spread their wings and raise their beaks vertically upward. The final stage of courtship is when the male and female touch each other's beaks and stroke each other.

After breeding is completed, the nest is preserved and can be used by other pairs in subsequent years.

Herons often expand old nests by adding new materials on top of the previous structure.

The female usually lays three to five eggs in a clutch, although there can be from two to even seven.

They are greenish-blue in color, have a matte surface and average dimensions of 60x43 mm. The interval between the laying of subsequent eggs is about two days, and incubation begins after the laying of the first or second egg.

Both parents incubate the eggs.

It takes about 25 days from egg laying to hatching. Once the babies hatch, the male and female are also responsible for feeding them. Gray herons usually have one brood per year, but there are cases of two, especially when the first brood is lost.

Young herons become chicks approximately 7-8 weeks after hatching, although they are not yet fully independent. They gain full independence at about 10 weeks of age.

Only about 30% of the juveniles survive their first year, most of them falling prey to predators. Due to their size, adults do not have many natural enemies. The greatest threat is from foxes and people.

The average lifespan of a gray heron in the wild is 5 years.

However, the record holder lived to be 23 years old.

Although they are solitary, they group together during the breeding season to increase their chances of finding a mate. We call such a group of herons a heron.

When they meet a competitor, they point their beaks down and rush towards him to scare him.

This is not an endangered species.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the gray heron as a species of Least Concern. The population is estimated at 790 3,7 people. up to XNUMX million adults. In Poland, the gray heron is a partially protected species.

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