Grey Heron

©Neil Aldridge

Grey heron

Scientific name: Ardea cinerea
Sometimes straying into gardens with ponds, the grey heron is a big bird that is easily recognised when stood stock-still waiting for a fish. Look out for it in flight, too, with its slow-flapping wings and its long legs held out behind it.

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


A tall, often solitary bird, the grey heron is one of the UK's most familiar birds. It feeds mainly on fish, but also eats small mammals (even Moles!), waterbirds (sometimes up to the size of a Coot) and Crayfish. It is often seen standing stock-still in the shallow waters of lakes, rivers and ponds, patiently hunting fish that flit about below the surface. It will visit gardens with ornamental ponds, looking for an easy meal.

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.


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.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts manage many wetland nature reserves for the benefit of the wildlife they support. You can help by supporting your local Trust and becoming a member; you'll find out about exciting wildlife news, events on your doorstep and volunteering opportunities, and will be helping local wildlife along the way.