Grey Heron

©Neil Aldridge

Grey heron

Scientific name: Ardea cinerea
Spot these tall, prehistoric looking birds standing like a statue on the edge of ponds and lakes, contemplating their next meal.

Species information


Length: 94cm
Wingspan: 1.8m
Weight: 1.5kg
Average lifespan: 5 years

Conservation status

Common. Classified in the UK as Green under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015).

When to see

January to December


Herons are often seen stood as still as a statue on their long thin legs in shallow waters of ponds and lakes patiently waiting for their next meal to swim by. These tall birds spend most of their time alone feeding mainly on fish but can be tempted by the occasional tasty mole! When feeling particularly lazy the heron will visit gardens with ponds for a quick and easy snack. Make sure you look out for these incredible birds in flight, their slow-flapping wings and long legs held out behind make them hard to miss!

How to identify

The heron is an easily recognised, grey-backed bird, with long legs, a long, white neck, bright yellow bill and a black eyestripe that continues as long, drooping feathers down the neck. Flies with its long legs stretched out, but its neck pulled in.

In our area

One of the best places to see grey herons is at The Mere in Ellesmere. Moscow Island, which lies 40m off the shore by The Boathouse holds an impressive heronry and dozens of these majestic birds can be seen sitting on their nests from February until June. Ellesmere Heronwatch volunteers are on hand in the cafe there to answer questions. There is also live video footage of the nests on display. video films of the herons and their chicks.


Found throughout town and countryside, on canals, ponds, lakes and rivers across the UK.

Did you know?

Herons nest in colonies called 'Heronries', often in the top of trees. Here, they make their large, ungainly nests out of twigs and lay 3-4 eggs. The young will fledge from the nest after about one and half months.

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