Height 90-98 cm
Weight up to 2 kg
Bright white crown
Black line running from above and behind the eye to the nape and extending as a spike-like crest
White neck with a double row of black streaks down the throat
Black patch from shoulder down to flanks
Grey back and wings
Long, yellow bill
Greenish-yellow legs and feet
Colonial breeder, usually in trees in most of Europe, sometimes on a cliff or in reedbeds in the east; race monicae nests on the ground on islets. Frequents the margins of a variety of freshwater including lakes, streams and swamps, brackish lagoons and estuaries, and often sea-coasts. Also feeds or rests on grassland.
In some parts of range a common bird in urban areas. The Grey Heron is a familiar bird of lakes, rivers, pans and also rocky coastlines where it is usually seen hunting in shallow water.
Birds spend long periods standing still in the water, waiting patiently for prey to swim within range of a lightning fast lunge of the bill.
They have occasionally been observed to swim.
Like others of the family, the Grey heron flies with its long neck retracted and the head pulled back into its shoulders.
Opportunist feeders, Grey herons eat a wide variety of fish, invertebrates, ducklings and land animals, such as rats and young rabbits.
They have even been recorded catching swifts, by ambushing them under a low level bridge.
The call is a harsh kraaank.
Colonial breeders, often mixed with other species such as egrets, cormorants and spoonbills. The colony is almost always associated with water – fresh or salt.
The nest is an untidy platform of sticks, usually at the top of a tall tree. Usual clutch size is 3-4 eggs.