Gray heron: habitat and curiosities to know

Gray heron: habitat and curiosities to know

One of the herons in which it is more common to come across also in Italy is thegray heron. Part of the Ardeidae family, its greyish plumage makes it immediately recognizable. Let’s find out more about it habitatwhat it eats, looks and reproduces this fascinating bird.

Scientific classification of the gray heron

This is the scientific classification of the gray heron:

  • Domain: Eukaryote
  • Kingdom: Animals
  • Sub-kingdom: Eumetazoa
  • Superphylum: Deuterostomia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Vertebrata
  • Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
  • Superclass: Tetrapod
  • Class: birds
  • Subclass: Neornithes
  • Superorder: Neognathae
  • Ordine: Pelecaniformes
  • Famiglia: Ardeidae
  • Subfamily: Ardeinae
  • Type: Heron
  • Species: A. cinerea

Then there are 3 subspecies:

  • A. c. Cinerea
  • A. c. firasa
  • A. cinerea jouyi
  • A. c. Monica

Other types of herons

The gray heron is part of the family of Ardeidae, of the order of the Pelecaniformes. Several belong to this family types of heronsas well as i tarabusithe night heron and the little egret.

Here are some other herons:

  • Tigriornis leucolopha: White-crested tiger heron
  • Tigrisoma lineatum: reddish brindle heron
  • Tigrisoma fasciatum: Banded Tiger Heron
  • T. mexicanum Swainson: Golanuda tiger heron
  • Agamia agami: airone agami
  • Butorides virescens: Green-backed heron
  • Butorides sundevalli: Gal├ípagos heron
  • B .: striped heron
  • Bubulcus ibis: airone guardabuoi
  • Bubulcus coromandus: airone guardabuoi orientale
  • Ardea cinerea: gray heron
  • Ardea herodias: great blue heron
  • A. cocoi: leaden heron
  • Ardea pacifica: white-colored heron
  • Ardea melanocephala: test heron
  • A. humbloti: heron malgascio
  • Ardea insignia: airone imperial
  • Ardea sumatrana: heron of Sumatra
  • A. goliath: heron goliath
  • Ardea purpurea: purple heron
  • Ardea alba: great white heron
  • Pilherodius pileatus: hooded heron
  • Syrigma sibilatrix: Whistling Heron
  • Egretta picata: black and white heron
  • Egretta tricolor: Louisiana heron
  • E. caerulea: minor blue heron

More specifically, in Italy we can spot the cattle egret Bubulcus ibisthe gray heron The ashes were burningthe purple heron Purple sheepthe great white heron White sheepthe tufted squacco Ardeola ralloidesthe heron Egretta garzetta and the Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax.

Where does she live?

Lgray heron it is found in all temperate zones of Europe. It also lives in Africa, Asia and Madagascar. The only areas where it is not present are the arctic ones and in the deserts. It tends to prefer areas with shallow waters, which are more rich in prey. It prefers to live in the plains, but it can also nest at more than 3,000 meters of altitude.

In Italia you can find gray herons in the Po Valley, in Tuscany, in Sicily and along the Tiber. It is not uncommon, then, to spot them also along the highways.

Characteristics of the gray heron and hints of biology

gray heron, I wait

The gray heron is 90-98cm tall and weighs 1-2kg. The wingspan, on the other hand, can reach 1.70 meters. The feathers of the livery are of Color: Grey dorsally and white in the lower part. Legs and beak, on the other hand, are yellow. There is no obvious sexual dimorphism: males and females are very similar. Males, however, tend to be larger.

The adult, compared to the young, also has black feathers on the neck and a black nuchal tuft. Young people, on the other hand, are more grayish.

The appearance in volo it is also typical: like all herons, when it flies it has its neck bent in an S shape. It also beats its wings in a slow and dignified manner.


As for reproduction, living almost everywhere, the gray herons of Europe, Asia and northern Africa tend to nest from January to March. Those of tropical areas, on the other hand, nest during the rainy season.

Le nesting areas they are called garzaie, colonies composed of different species of herons. The heron nests in the trees, builds a platform of branches at the top. Sometimes the nido it is built in a reed bed or directly on the ground.

Usually 4-5 are laid egg and the hatching lasts 25 days. THE gray heron chicks they are fed in the nest for about 50 days.

Behavior and habits

gray heron flies

The gray herons they live in colony mixed composed of even a thousand pairs. Especially the populations of Europe and Asia tend to be migratory. This means that between September and October they migrate to the wintering areas warmer, from which they return in February. They tend to migrate at night, always in very large groups. Other populations, on the other hand, tend to be more sedentary.

Diet and nutrition

gray heron eats

Come Power supply, the gray heron eats fish, crustaceans, molluscs, frogs, tadpoles, snakes and insects. It can also feed on small mammals and other birds. It tends to be active both day and night. Furthermore, in order to eat, it is capable of flying even tens of kilometers from where it nests or sleeps.

His hunting technique it is very interesting, it practically ambushes its catches. It remains stationary on the shore or in the shallow water, motionless and then harpoons them with a very fast snap of the beak. Exactly like the cormorants do, then, it throws the prey in the air and swallows it starting from the head, in order to prevent the scales and fins from opening and remaining stuck in the throat.

Curiosities about the gray heron

Here are a few curiosity about the gray heron:

  • The average lifespan of a gray heron it can be up to 24 years old. Except that most of the babies do not exceed 6 months of life
  • Among the herons, the gray is the one that migrates further north
  • According to Pliny the Elder, see a heron wore good. Depending on the religions and the various peoples, it can symbolize immortality, rebirth, prudence, wisdom and balance. In India, on the other hand, it indicates wickedness intended as a lack of scruples and quarrels (this is perhaps due to the fact that the gray heron tends to be a bit aggressive towards smaller animals). If dreamed, the heron indicates that difficulties are being overcome and a happy time is coming. But if you dream of a gray heron, here comes problems or grief. Black herons also indicate bad news

A gray heron as a pet?

No, thegray heron it cannot be kept as a pet. However, it is possible that certain specimens always return to the same nesting areas, so it is possible to observe them in their habitat. In fact, even if the IUCN Red List classifies the gray heron as one low-risk specieshere in Italy it is a protected species according to law 157/92.

Source: GreenStyle by

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