Body length: 84 – 102 cm. Wingspan: 175 – 195 cm. Weight: 600-1200 g. Longevity: 25 years. Poor sexual dimorphism. Adults have a white head and neck with a broad black stripe that extends from the eye to the black crest. The body and wings are grey above and the underparts are greyish-white, with some black on the flanks. The long, sharply pointed beak is pinkish-yellow and the legs are brown.

In flight, it is slowly beating with wings, the main feathers on the wings are dark, almost black, and the neck is folded and the legs are longer than the tail.

The young herons have a gray forehead and a hood, a gray-black neck with a short feather on top, and the head, neck and back are also gray. The center of the neck is beige.

The typical cry of the Gray Heron, often eaten in the evening, is hoarse, audible, and shrieking. The colony is very noisy and many beats can be exchanged.


Distribution and Habitat

Palearctic species, which has 4 subspecies:

Ardea cinerea cinerea (from Europe to Asia, India and Africa)
Ardea cinerea jouyi (China, Korea and Japan to Sumatra and Java)
Ardea cinerea monicae (Mauritania)
Ardea cinerea firasa (Madagascar, Comoros and Aldabra)

The Eurasian species winter in large flocks in North Africa, the Middle East, India and China. The Heron is a partially migratory bird. In the northern regions, it appears before the snow disappears, and once the small ones become self-sufficient, they immediately embark on migrations. They take large migrations and often reach the northern shores of Africa or South Asia. They often settle in colonies at distances of about 1000 km from where they are hatched.

Generally, northern European populations winter in Southern Europe and North Africa. Much of the populations breeding in Central and Southern Europe lead a sedentary lifestyle. In Apennine and Pyrenean Peninsula can be found mostly as wintering birds, although there are also separate cores of living birds.

In Bulgaria Gray Heron is a nesting, passing and wintering species; most colonies are along the Danube River, the Black Sea coast and the large rivers and dams in the Danube and Thracian Plains.

Habitat: freshwater lakes and marshes, floodplains and oak forests, dams, fish ponds and fish farms, and in migratory Gray Heron are also found in coastal ponds, dams, alfalfa fields, paddy fields, irrigation channels. The Gray Heron is a bird with great adaptive ability, the only thing it needs is fish-rich water and minimal peace of mind. Missing only in large forests. In certain cases, with the abundance of small rodents in the northern regions or large grasshoppers in the south, we can meet the Gray Heron and no water nearby.



Gray Heron is active day and night, often seen at dawn. Daily eating about 500 grams of food. It feeds mostly on fish and less with insects, mice, snakes, other birds and other adult grebes. When it hunts, it walks very slowly, and when sees its prey, Gray Heron shoots his head with a lightning move and catches it for sure. Among nature, the fish can find shelter, but they have no chance in artificial ponds. Gray Heron searches for its food in deep-sea bays and in open waters where she can walk freely.



It rarely nests alone, most often forms colonies that can last a considerable amount of time. Some of the colonies in Europe are over 100 years old. Monogamous birds. The nests are located in reed beds, trees (white willow, white and hybrid poplar, oak, ash, lime, beech) and rarely on rocks. Eggs – most often 3-5 pieces. Laying begins in March. Hatching – lasts 25-26 days and is done by both parents. The young leave the nest at about 30-48 days of age. They are fed approximately each two hours with food that parents bring to their hens. Fallen from the nest little is fed identically with other chickens. When collecting food, parents can move up to 30 km from the nest. They grow one brood every year.


Conservation Status

Protected under the BDA. Most traditional breeding habitats are included within the boundaries of protected areas.





Gray Heron (Ardea cinerea)