Grey Heron

Ardea cinerea Linnaeus 1758

Order Ciconiiformes

Family Ardeidae

Conservation status: in Bulgaria: Vulnerable VU=[A2+B1(bii)], BDA-III; International: BeC-III.

General distribution. A Palearctic species breeding in India, Burma, Ceylon island, the Malayan islands and Java island, at places in Africa. It winters in Central and Southern Africa and Asia. The total numbers in Europe are 63 000 85 000 breeding pairs [1].

Distribution and abundance in Bulgaria. A breeding summer visitor, passage migrant and winter visitor. In the past it bred around the Danube and the larger rivers within the country, and in marshes along the Black Sea coast [2]. In the second half of the 20th century, a total of 24 breeding colonies was registered, numbering about 500 breeding pairs [3]. Registered at present are 86 places with certain breeding, mainly along the Danubian and the Black Sea coast, the area in front of the Balkan range and the valleys of the larger rivers [7]. The estimates of the breeding numbers in the country are rather different 200 2 000 [4], 500-700 [5], 1 000 1 400 [6, 7].

Habitats. 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.

Biology. It breeds in separate or mixed colonies of Egrets, Glossy Ibisses, 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.

Similar species. The Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea).

Negative factors. In the past (the 1950s) it was shot down as a pest. Probably drying up and degradation of the wetlands have an effect on the breeding population as does persecution in fish farms.

Conservation measures taken. Protected according to the Biological Diversity Act. Most traditional breeding places are included within Protected Territories.

Conservation measures needed. Working out a Programme for the preservation of the species and its enforcement.

References. 1. Wetlands International, 2002; 2. Simeonov et al., 1989; 3. Michev, Petrov, 1984; 4. Kostadinova, 1997, 5. Nankinov et al., 2004. 6. Birdlife Interrnational, 2004; 7. BSPB, in press.

Authors: Tanyo Michev, Tseno Petrov, Hristo Nikolov, Zlatozar Boev

Grey Heron (distribution map)

Grey Heron (drawing)