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Life in Freshwater

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea )

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Heron standing in estuarine mud

This is a large bird with a wingspan of almost 2 metres. The body stands at 95 cm. It has a long neck and a large, heavy, yellow bill. The head is white with loose black feathers streaked across it. The body and wings are a light grey. The legs are brown.

Typically the Grey Heron is found across eastern, central and western Europe, becoming sparse around the Mediterranean. Over the last century the heron has spread into Scandanavia, particularly Finland. It extends along the coast of Norway into the Arctic Circle. Common throughout the British Isles. The habitat is shallow water, whether running or still. Ponds, lakes, streams, rivers, estuaries and marshland. Nest sites are in trees but may be some way from the water.

ECOLOGY: The Grey Heron feeds on most aquatic life, taking mainly fish, small mammals and amphibians. However, it is an opportunist and will catch crabs, molluscs and worms along esturies as well as small birds, beetles and reptiles from other habitats. When abundant herons can be seen along a river bank in equally spaced fishing territories. Pairs will begin nest building very early in the year, constructing large nests in trees from large twigs and sticks. Sometimes they form colonies with a number of nests in the same tree. Egg laying (on average 4) commences in March. The pale blue eggs hatch after an incubation of almost 4 weeks and are then fed by both parents. Food is regurgitated into the nest so that they begin to peck at it. After 3 weeks the young move out of the nest on to the surrounding branches.













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