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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Gray Heron Ardea cinerea

Commonly seen in fresh water, the gray heron also frequently visits shores, especially in areas where lakes and ponds freeze in winter. Tall, gray-backed, and often immobile, the gray heron waits patiently for fish or other animals to come within range, then seizes them with a rapid jab of its daggerlike bill. On coasts, its feeding method restricts it to shallow water on rocky and low-lying shores, where it often follows the falling tide. Gray herons fly with slow wingbeats, their heads hunched into their shoulders and their legs trailing behind. They nest in trees, typically inland near water.

Gray Heronzoom image
  • Order Ciconiiformes
  • Length 34–39 in (90–100 cm)
  • Weight 3–4 lb (1.6–2 kg)
  • Habitat Estuaries, lagoons, coasts
  • Distribution Europe, mainland Asia (except far north), Japan, Indonesia, Africa, Madagascar
Gray Heron habitat mapzoom image