(2217) Ardea cinerea cinerea.
The Common Grey Heron.
Ardea cinerea Linn., Syst. Nat., 10th ed., i, p. 143 (1758) (Sweden) ; Blanford & Oates, iv, p. 282 (part).
Vernacular names. Nari, Sain, Kabud, Anjan (Hind.): Khyra (Behar); Sada kanka, Anjan (Beng.); Saa (Sind); Narraina-pachi (Tel.); Narayan (Tam.) ; Kalapua-karawal-koka, Indura-koka (Cing.).
Description. - Male. Centre of crown, chin and face next the bill white, occasionally a black feather or two in the extreme centre and on the forehead; two broad black lines from above the lores running back over the eye to the nape, where they join in the long black crest; mantle, wing-coverts and secondaries ashy-grey, the scapulars long, attenuated and pale grey and the inner secondaries blackish at the tips ; tail grey, the central feathers darker and with blackish tips; primaries and outer secondaries, primary coverts and bastard wing almost black; a line down the centre of the fore-neck streaked black and white ; remainder of neck white suffused with vinous or smoky-grey; elongate feathers of the breast white, some of the shorter with black streaks; middle of breast, abdomen and under tail-coverts white; a patch of lengthened black plumes on each side of the breast, the black continued down the sides of the abdomen and meeting on the vent; flanks, under wing-coverts and axillaries grey.
Colours of soft parts. Iris golden-yellow; bill yellow in the breeding-plumage with a brown line down the culmen, in Winter nearly all darker brown; loral skin dull yellowish-green; legs and feet greenish-brown, marked with yellowish on the joints and back of the tarsi.
Measurements. Wing 418 to 475 mm.; tail 155 to 185 mm.; tarsus about 135 to 165 mm.; culmen 113 to 128 mm. The female is very little smaller than the male, the measurements greatly overlapping.
The female has the crest and pectoral plumes less developed but does not differ in colour from the male.
Young birds are much browner, darker grey; the neck is nearly all vinous-grey and the forehead and centre of the crown are the same; the lengthened scapulars and breast-plumes are wanting; the fore-neck is more conspicuously streaked with black.
Nestling. Down dark grey above, paler on the sides and whitish below; the down of the crown is very long and erect, with long bristly tips giving a crested appearance.
Distribution. Europe and North Africa to Asia Minor, Palestine and North-West' Siberia. A casual straggler only to North-West India in Winter in Sind and Baluchistan.
Nidification. The Common Grey Heron is one of the earliest breeders in Europe, a few eggs being laid as early as February and the majority in March. The birds breed in colonies from a dozen to fifty or more pairs of birds, making large stick nests on trees, or in some places on the Continent in reeds. The eggs are like those of the preceding bird but rather darker and larger, one hundred eggs averaging 60.2 x 43.0 mm.: maxima 68.4 x 43.6 and 61.5 x 49.7 mm.; minima 55.4 x 42.2 and 59.6 x 40.0 mm.
Habits. Very much the same as those of the Purple Heron, though they are never found in such vast colonies. Their food may be said to consist of any living thing small enough to swallow and not wise enough to keep out of their reach, but theoretically their diet is mainly fish and they are often most destructive both to trout and coarse fish. The flight is very powerful, though it appears laboured and in former days the Heron was much prized as quarry for Peregrines in hawking. Its flesh is sometimes eatable, never pleasant and often impossible to eat.