Ardea cinerea
English: Grey Heron.
German: Graureiher-cinerea.
French: Héron cendré.
Order: Ciconiiformes.
Family: Ardeidae.
84-102 cm.
155-175 cm.
The Grey Heron can only be confused with the Purple Heron. The latter has its head, neck, and lower parts plumage stained brown.
The plumage of both sexes is similar and is not a reliable variable in assessing the sex of this species. In some extreme cases (always in adult specimens), size can help as the male has a larger wing of 475mm and a larger beak of 125mm. On the other hand, the female has a smaller wing of 430mm and a smaller beak of 109mm.
It is possible to recognize 4 different ages:

Juvenile specimen: the flight feathers of these individuals are new, i.e. of first generation, so they do not show any wear. They have a completely gray forehead, crown, and neck. The back lacks ornamental feathers. The upper jaw of the beak is dark.

1st-2nd year specimen: these individuals maintain the flight feathers of the juvenile generation, so they may show some wear. They have a gray crown but already have stripes of a dull black color. The nape also shares this dull black color with ornamental feathers that are shorter and less shiny than in adult specimens. The upper jaw of the beak remains dark.

2nd-3rd year specimen: these individuals already have an appearance similar to that of adults, but with a gray forehead and some white feathers in the crown. The ornamental feathers are shorter than those of adults.

Adult specimen: they have uniform gray upper parts and their ornamental feathers are bathed in a light gray in the back and scapulas. The forehead and central band of the crown are pure white with black edges. The ornamental feathers of the nape are long and shiny. The upper jaw of the beak is yellow-orange (mainly in spring). In some cases, adult specimens with gray crowns may be found, but always with a white nape.
Grey Herons undergo a complete post-nuptial molt that usually ends in November. On the other hand, the post-juvenile molt is a partial process that includes most of the body feathers and rarely some wing coverts. As detailed in the AGEING section, flight feathers are retained until the 2nd year. With this molt, it is possible to find some specimens still molting in February.
Primaries: 10 per wing.
Secundaries: 19 per wing.
Rectrices: 12.


Adult specimen:
Beak tip to pupil center:

Adult specimen


1.- Left wing primaries. 2.- Primaries. 3.- Details of the outer vane of the outer primaries. 4.- Details of the tip of the primaries. 5.- Details of the primary calamus. 6.- Secondaries (S19-S10). 7.- Secondaries (S9-S1). 8.- Secondaries and tertials of the left wing. 9.- Details of the secondary calamus. 10.- Details of the tip of the secondaries. 11.- Details of the outer vane of P1 and S1. 12.- Tertials. 13.- Details of the tip of the tertials. 14.- Primaries, secondaries and tertials of the left wing. 15.- Primaries, secondaries and tertials of the left wing. 16.- Primaries, secondaries and tertials. Primary coverts and secondary coverts. 17.- Primaries, secondaries and tertials. Primary coverts and greater coverts + median coverts. 18.- Primaries, secondaries, tertials. Primary and secondary coverts (G, M and L). Alulas. 19.- Primary coverts. 20.- Details of the greater coverts. 21.- Secondary coverts. 22.- Details of the secondary coverts (G, M and L). 23.- Details of the tertiary coverts. 24.- Details of the tertiary coverts. 25.- Details of the secondary covertts. 26.- Primary coverts. 27.- Greater coverts. 28.- Alulas. 29.- Rectrices. 30.- Details of the rectrices. 31.- Details of the rectrices. 32.- Rectrices + uppertail coverts. 33.- Rectrices + uppertail coverts. 34.- Rectrices + uppertail coverts. 35.- Rectrices. 36.- Rectrices + undertail coverts. 37.- Details of the undertail coverts. 38.- Undertail coverts. 39.- Assembly of the left shoulder blade. 40.- Details of the shoulder blade. 41.- Left shoulder blade feathers. 42.- Primary and secondary infra-covers. 43.- Assembly of back feathers. 44.- Details of back feathers. 45.- Back feathers. 46.- Back feathers. 47.- Back feathers. 48.- Assembly of throat feathers. 49.- Throat feathers. 50.- Details of the throat feather. 51.- Assembly of gorget feathers (ornamental feathers). 52.- Details of the gorget feathers. 53.- Details of the gorget feathers. 54.- Gorget feathers.

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