Friday, October 10, 2014

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)

(95 cm.)Field marks:  large, long bill and legs, grayish plumage
   苍鹭 – cāng-lù – ‘dark blue heron’

The Grey Heron is one of the largest members of the heron family, “Ardeidae”, in China. It is a widespread species found in Africa and throughout temperate Europe and Asia. Only two other herons in China are of a similar size, the even larger and quite dark Purple Heron and the similarly sized, but all white, Great Egret. The greyish, yellow-billed Grey Heron is quite easy to distinguish from these other large members of its family.

Like all herons, egrets, and bitterns, this species flies with its head retracted to its body in an “s” shape, distinguishing it from other large flying waders such as storks and cranes.

The Grey Heron is a voracious eater armed with a lethal, dagger-like bill, and it wreaks havoc on the aquatic life of its watery habitat. It is not picky about the food it consumes and will snatch frogs, lizards, insects, fish, snakes, plovers, ducklings, and other small birds and their chicks. This species is usually a solitary hunter which usually stands in the shallow water of streams, lakes and ponds waiting motionlessly for prey to stray within striking range. They will also actively stalk other prey choices.

Like all herons, this species is a colony nester. It builds a solid and bulky nest of sticks which is situated in a tree close to the edge of a lake, marsh, or even a seaside.

The Grey Heron is described as locally common throughout its large range, meaning that in certain locations the bird may be uncommon or even rare, while in other places it is a common sight and easily found. 
Photo by JJ Harrison

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