Grey heron Short Description-
The grey heron (Ardea cinerea) is a long-legged predatory wading bird of the heron family, native throughout temperate Europe and Asia and also parts of Africa. A bird of wetland areas, it can be seen around lakes, rivers, ponds, marshes and on the sea coast. It feeds mostly on aquatic creatures which it catches after standing stationary beside or in the water or stalking its prey through the shallows.
Standing up to a metre tall, adults weigh from 1 to 2 kg .They have a white head and neck with a broad black stripe that extends from the eye to the black crest. The body and wings are grey above and the underparts are greyish-white, with some black on the flanks. The long, sharply pointed beak is pinkish-yellow and the legs are brown.
The birds breed colonially in spring in “heronries”, usually building their nests high in trees. A clutch of usually three to five bluish-green eggs is laid. Both birds incubate the eggs for a period of about 25 days, and then both feed the chicks, which fledge when seven or eight weeks old. Many juveniles do not survive their first winter, but if they do, they can expect to live for about five years.
The main call is a loud croaking “fraaank”, but a variety of guttural and raucous noises are heard at the breeding colony. The male uses an advertisement call to encourage a female to join him at the nest, and both sexes use various greeting calls after a pair bond has been established.
The grey heron 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.
This species breeds in colonies known as heronries, usually in high trees close to lakes, the seashore or other wetlands. Other sites are sometimes chosen, and these include low trees and bushes, bramble patches, reed beds, heather clumps and cliff ledges. The same nest is used year after year until blown down; it starts as a small platform of sticks but expands into a bulky nest as more material is added in subsequent years. It may be lined with smaller twigs, strands of root or dead grasses, and in reed beds, it is built from dead reeds. The male usually collects the material while the female constructs the nest. Breeding activities take place between February and June. When a bird arrives at the nest, a greeting ceremony occurs in which each partner raises and lowers its wings and plumes.
The male calling from the chosen nesting site. On the arrival of the female, both birds participate in a stretching ceremony, in which each bird extends its neck vertically before bringing it backwards and downwards with the bill remaining vertical, simultaneously flexing its legs, before returning to its normal stance. The snapping ceremony is another behaviour where the neck is extended forward, the head is lowered to the level of the feet and the mandibles are vigorously snapped together. This may be repeated twenty to forty times. When the pairing is settled, the birds may caress each other by attending to the other bird’s plumage. The male may then offer the female a stick which she incorporates into the nest. At this, the male becomes excited, further preening the female and copulation takes place.
Grey herons have the ability to live in cities where habitats and nesting space are available.
Source of Information-
Location- Outskirt Region –Gangapur City
Ghana Bird sanctuary Bharatpur
Ranthambhore national Park Sawai Madhopur
Photographer- Dr Mukesh Garg
Copyright- Bird and Wildlife Photography
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