Family Herons (Ardeidae)

Least Concern

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)


French: Héron cendré German: Graureiher Spanish: Garza real

Ardea cinerea


, 1758,

Europe; restricted to Sweden


Closely related to A. herodias and A. cocoi. Race monicae recently considered a separate species by some authors following earlier study#R; from photographs and the literature (specimens unexamined) appears fairly distinctive, being shorter-winged and shorter-tailed (allow 2), and with a variably whiter head and neck (allow 2). Four subspecies generally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. c. cinerea Linnaeus, 1758 – Grey Heron – most of Palearctic, and thinly through Africa, India and Sri Lanka.
  • A. c. jouyi A. H. Clark, 1907 – much of China (except NW), Russian Far East and Japan S to N Myanmar, Indochina, Greater Sundas and W Lesser Sundas; more widespread in winter in SE Asia, also in Philippines.
  • A. c. firasa E. J. O. Hartert, 1917 – Madagascar.
  • A. c. monicae Jouanin & Roux, 1963 – Mauritanian Heron – islands off Banc d’Arguin, Mauritania.
  • Descriptive notes

    90–98 cm; 1020–2073 g; wingspan 175–195 cm. Forehead, crown and throat white, with broad black eyestripe from above eye to back of crown and extending as... read more


    Comparatively vocal member of the Ardeidae: most distinctive and commonest vocalization is a loud,... read more


    Very variable; any kind of shallow water, fresh, brackish or salt, standing or flowing, provided... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly fish, but diet varies with habitat and season, and species is considered highly opportunistic (e.g. observed taking locusts ... read more


    Jan–Jun in Palearctic (e.g. Switzerland), typically starting in Feb–Mar, even as far N as British Isles, whereas in China birds... read more


    Populations of extreme N migratory, further S tend to be sedentary or dispersive; marked post-... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). In Europe heavily persecuted in past (see Family Text) and population reached nadir during mid-20th century; since then, has... read more

    Recommended citation

    Martínez-Vilalta, A., Motis, A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 28 February 2020).