The grey heron is a very shy wading bird which fishes for its food. It can be seen from a distance in marshes and on riverbanks throughout Europe. This large stately heron is the most common type of heron in Europe and has been a protected species since 1975.
It is Europe’s biggest heron, the adult measuring nearly a metre high and weighing 2 kilos. This wading bird is easily recognized by its size and by its ashy grey feathers, which give it its name, and also by its white neck and its speckled black breast. Its white head is highlighted by black lines which stretch from the back of its neck to its eyes. The young birds have the same features as the adults, though they are less marked.
The grey heron has a long bright yellow beak which is a great hunting weapon. It is an excellent hunter and fisher, and feeds mainly on the fish it catches, but it also eats frogs, reptiles, aquatic insects and small mammals like common mice, voles, field mice and even moles. This wading bird, very common in Europe sometimes migrates, but only when the weather gets very cold.
The grey heron is a sedentary bird in regions with a clement climate , where there is plenty of fish. It has a graceful, slow flight, reaching a maximum speed of 40 kms per hour. It can be found in European countries like Holland, Scandanavian countries, England, Germany, and also as far south as southern Portugal, northern Italy and Greece. It can be seen mainly in the northeastern part of France and in the marshes in the west of the country (Poitou-Charente and the Vendée).
The grey heron is a shy bird which doesn’t let people get too near it. If it detects the presence of someone, it flies off to a quieter place. It is generally a solitary bird, but gathers together with the others of its species in large colonies perched on the top of trees during the breeding season. It builds its nest early in the season from February to July. The male chooses the site where the eggs are to be laid. The female lays 4 or 5 light blue eggs. Both parents take turns to brood during the 25 days of incubation. The young birds fly around 50 days after hatching. They quickly gain independance, as they must be able to fend for themselves 3 weeks after their first flight.