Grey Heron | Ardea cinerea

Robert's Birding Information: Grey Heron

The Grey Heron is a Southern African bird that belongs to the Ardeidae bird family group which includes birds such as Egrets, Herons, Bitterns.

South African Grey HeronThe description for the Grey Heron (Latin name Ardea cinerea) can be found in the 7th Edition of the Roberts Birds of Southern Africa. The Ardea cinerea can be quickly identified by its unique Roberts identification number of 62 and the detailed description of this bird is on page 587. You will find a picture of the Grey Heron on page 592.

The Grey Heron is the most common Heron species in South Africa and can be found all over Southern Africa and in a variety of different habitats.

NOTE: The reference for the information following is "Roberts Birds of Southern Africa", 7th Edition*. This edition contained a number of taxonomic changes as well as changes to English names used traditionally and in earlier editions of most bird books in South Africa. The following paragraph notes such changes if any.

There have been no changes in the common name between the Roberts 6th and Roberts 7th Edition. There have been no changes in the Latin name for the Grey Heron between the Roberts 6th and Roberts 7th Edition.

The Grey Heron is known in Afrikaans as Bloureier.

The Grey Heron has a height of 98 cms and weighs around 1020 gms. The head is coloured white, black while the bill is coloured grey, white. The Ardea cinerea has a grey, black coloured throat, grey, white legs and a brown coloured back. The eyes are yellow.

Take note of the bird's main distinguishing features such as colour, size and leg length relative to the body size of the bird. Colours of a bird's body parts can be helpful. Be aware what may appear brown to one person is described in Roberts Birds using some other word ... for example brown, black. See colours used in Roberts.

Head is white, black.

Eyes are yellow.

Bill is grey, white.

Legs are grey, white.

Throat is grey, black.

Back is brown.

This bird has long legs i.e. legs the length of which are out of proportion to the bird's body size. This can be a useful identification guide (e.g. with the Lapwings).

Photo's & Differentiating Between Male, Female & Juveniles

Please click the images below to make them larger:

Male Adult Grey Heron adult
Female Adult Same as above.
Non Breeding Plumage N/A

Grey Heron Feeding Habits ...

This bird has a specially adapted bill which helps it hunt for fish, crabs, shrimp and other aquatic animals in the water.

Grey Heron Breeding, Habitat and Nesting Habits ...

The bird builds its nest on the ground with figs, straw and leaves. The nest is placed under a bush to protect the young from predators.

The Grey Heron is found in the Southern African wetlands, riverine forests and moist grasslands.

You can see the Grey Heron bird on coastal regions and on the sea shore where the bird will be foraging with other birds.

Seen in Flocks, Singles or Pairs Normally ...

The Grey Heron is mainly seen singly or in pairs in the wild.

The Grey Heron can often be confused with the Blackheaded Heron. The key to identifying these birds is all in the birds facial features and more specifically what the top of the head of the bird looks like. The Blackheaded Heron has a solid Black head whereas the Grey Heron has a black stripe on its head with a white background.