Latin name Ardea Cinerea, grey Herons are large water birds that are native to the UK. However, they have a larger distribution and can be found throughout Europe, Asia and Africa. Herons are freshwater and coastal birds and they can be found in wetlands, lakes, ponds, canals, estuaries and rivers. Herons have long legs specifically designed for patiently standing motionless in shallow waters waiting for prey to come unwittingly past. They have a varied diet and fish, amphibians, insects, Voles and even Ducklings are all on the menu.
Herons nest in colonies called Heronries. They prefer to nest amongst dense plantations of rushes, and the tops of trees and sometimes, can even be found nesting on top of large areas of brambles. In spring, they lay 3 to 5 eggs and the incubation period is 25 days. After hatching, both parents take turn to feed the chicks. Young birds fledge at seven to eight weeks. Unfortunately, the youngsters are most vulnerable during their first winter, but birds that survive through the winter till the spring time, can usually expect to live another five years.
Pest or Welcome Visitor
Grey Herons have a bad reputation for taking fish out of garden ponds. So, sometimes we need to open our eyes a bit more to see the bigger picture. Just as we enjoy seeing squirrels at the bird table as well as wild birds, I believe the bigger picture is the whole of nature and not just our preferred part of it. These giant birds are magnificent and surely their splendour and the delight of seeing them, allows them some forgiveness for taking one or two fish now and again. After all, from a Herons point of view, when you went to your local aquatic retailer and bought some Goldfish for your pond, to him you were simply laying the table for supper! So, we need to enjoy our fish and Herons. This can easily be accomplished by planting good surface covering plants such as Water Lilies and other good surface cover aquatic plants with leaves that will provide hiding place and shelter for your fish which will help in keeping losses down to a minimum.
My Brothers Welcome Visitor
All the photos in this article have been supplied by my brother who has a wild, but friendly Heron that visits his garden on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. I hope you enjoy looking at the photos he sent me as much as I did.