Grey heron

(Ardea cinerea)
This species is a Palearctic species that breeds in India, Myanmar (Burma), Ceylon, the Malay Islands and the island Java, in places in Africa.
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Distribution of the species

This species is a Palearctic species that breeds in India, Myanmar (Burma), Ceylon, the Malay Islands and the island Java, in places in Africa. Winters in Central and South Africa and Asia. Its total number in Europe is 63 000 – 85 000 breeding pairs.

In Bulgaria the species is nesting-migratory, passing and wintering in the country. It used to be found around the Danube and the larger rivers inside the country, as well as in the swamps along the Black Sea coast. Currently, 86 nesting sites have been registered, mainly along the Danube and Black Sea coasts, the Fore-Balkans and the valleys of the larger rivers.

Description of the species (biological and ecological features)

In Bulgaria, the Grey heron reaches a body size of 94 cm and a wingspan of 185 cm. The species has adult dimorphism and small seasonal differences. Adults during the breeding season are grey with black shoulders and decorative feathers on the head, which then disappear, whitish below, the head and neck are white with black stripes behind the eyes and on the front of the neck. In the young, the upper part of the head and neck are grey. It can be confused with the Purple heron, but it is larger and flies with slower swings. The Gray Heron nests singly or in mixed colonies of herons, Glossy ibises, Eurasian spoonbills and Pygmy cormorants. The nests are located in reedbeds, on trees (white willow, white and hybrid poplar, oak, ash-tree, lime-tree, beech) and rarely on rocks. It breeds 4-5 young ones that start flying from the middle of June. The food consists of fish, mice, frogs, etc. The species inhabits freshwater lakes and marshes, flooded and oak forests, reservoirs and microreservoirs and fish farms. During migrations and wintering it is also found in shores brackish water basins and in reservoirs, lucerne and rice fields, irrigation canals, mainly in the low parts of the country.

Conservation status


Conservation state

The Grey heron is part of the Red Data Book of Bulgaria (2015) with category “Vulnerable” (VU) and is included in Annex 3 of the Biodiversity Act (BDA) This species is included in the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species with category Least Concern (LC).


*Note: For the description of birds is used information from: Golemanski, V. & al. (eds). 2015. Red Data Book of the Republic of Bulgaria. Vol. 2. Animals. BAS & MoEW, Sofia [English ed.: ISBN 978-954-9746-22-8 (IBER – BAS), 978-954-8497-18-3 (MoEW)]; Michev T., D. Simeonov, L. Profirov. 2012. Birds of the Balkan Peninsula. Ecotan, Sofia, 300 pp; the website of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).