Grey heron

A grey heron standing on the stony margin of a river

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 (2021).

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.


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.


Tom Hibbert