The Grey Herons can be found near water's edge areas year round throughout Japan. However, in some regions, such as Hokkaido, they are not seen in winter, and there are also some regions, such as the Nansei Islands, where they can only be seen in winter. Their numbers seem to be growing recently for some reason, and some birds have also been spotted flying in areas away from water. In English, the bird is called Grey Heron, referring to its grey coloring, but in Japanese it is known as a “blue heron” since the grey on its back has a bluish tinge.
Play birds singing
Advances in genetic and other research have led to changes in the classification of species, as explained in the profiles of other birds, one example is the Little Grebe and another example is a falcon which was separated from order Accipitriformes and classified as order Falconiformes. The family Ardeidae (heron) and the family Threskiornithidae (ibis) that were previously classified as order Ciconiiformes now belong to order Pelecaniformes. We now know that the evolution of birds is more complicated than we thought, and we have come to realize that we cannot necessarily classify birds purely on the basis of physical characteristics seen today.
The Grey Heron is the largest species of heron in Japan, and is sometimes mistakenly classified as a member of the family Ciconiidae (stork). Long legs and a long neck are characteristics common to cranes and ibises in addition to storks, but among such birds, only herons characteristically bend (retract) their neck when flying (see Little Egret).
Like other herons, the Grey Heron feeds mainly on fish and amphibians, but it also appears to eat small mammals, such as mice and small birds, if it can catch them.
The Grey Heron has always been a winter bird in the Nansei Islands, and it is thought that its numbers in regions south of Honshu, especially in southern Japan, increase in winter since birds of Hokkaido and the Eurasian continent fly south in autumn. In winter, it is mostly nocturnal; it is seen sleeping in green spaces during the day, and its “;gya-“; call can be heard at night.
Mummified remains dating to the time of Loulan, an ancient kingdom based around an important oasis city along the Silk Road, attracted great attention when discovered in 1980. The mummy was a female, and a Grey Heron feather was found with her remains. It seems it was the custom at that time for a groom to give his bride a feather from a Grey Heron as a symbol of marriage.
The change in color of the bill and legs for part of the breeding season is called nuptial coloration. The bill and legs of the Grey Heron have a reddish tinge.
Many birds reach maturity (adulthood) in one year, but among large birds it takes some more than two years. A Grey Heron lacking a distinctive crest and blue coloring on its back, as seen in the photo, is called a juvenile.
Canon sites where this bird is seen