GREY HERON (Ardea cinerea)

Héron cendré

 

 

The Grey Heron probably ranks as one of Switzerland's biggest birds standing up to 1m tall, but in fact it is quite a skinny fellow for its height, only weighing in at 2kg or less. Hence when you do see it fly the wing beat is lazy and light and there is quite a bounce in the movement as those big wings can easily waft the bird upwards.

It is found throughout the lowlands of Switzerland, seldom above about 800m and mostly in the plains below 600m. This of course means it is found mostly in the north on the plateau because that is where the shallow, slow moving waters upon which it thrives can be found. But although the classic pose for a Grey Heron is standing knee deep in a marsh somewhere, peering intently into the water, in fact they can often be seen in agricultural lands, especially in fields recently harvested or ploughed and where some luckless protein may have been exposed. I have seen up to 15-20 birds in on field like this.

Herons are not song birds, their basic call is a harsh grating scream which is uttered like a surprised "FRANK!!":

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And the sound is not made either predictably or regularly and I have found this a tricky beast to try and record. That previous one was calling as it approached me over some marshes and I was able to follow it with the parabola.

 

 

 

 

The tone is a rather high-pitched shriek, and does not vary much, but they can make other clammerings around their nesting sites which often contain many pairs - I have not encountered one in Switzerland.

I do however have the following recording of a bird which flew quite close to me (you can hear the wings at the end) and the call is noticeably lower in tone, but I do not know if that signifies anything or not, and I cannot find any reference to this in the literature:

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