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Egrets, Herons, Bitterns, Spoonbills, Ibises, Stork, Cranes

In the Field Guide to Australian Birds the Grey Heron is illustrated on page 73, but with the only text being several brief descriptive notes and a caption indicated that any past records were unsubstantiated, and the species an "unlikely but not impossible vagrant to N Australia from SE Asia ". Little more than 18 months after publication, the Grey Heron has been recorded, not in the far north, but in SW of WA,

First sighted by Margaret Hill and Jeni Jones on 20 May 2002, the single Grey Heron was present on the New River wetlands, Busselton, until 20 May 2002. It was and later studied and photographed by other observers.

This bird was identified as an adult, most likely to have come from Indonesia, although the extensive migrations of the species makes it possible that this individual may have come from further afield. Many subspecies occur across the Grey Heron's wide range from Europe, Africa and Asia south to Sumatra and Java. The differences between subspecies are slight, with many intermediate forms, so the subspecies of this individual appears at present uncertain.

A Grey Heron was also observed at the mouth of the Chapman River, near Geraldton, WA. June 22-23, 2002, by Brice Wells and other observers, and studied with spotting scope. As it was standing near a Great Egret, a size comparison was possible, the Grey Heron being almost as tall, but obviously heavier in the body.

When on a perch the Grey Heron adopts a more hunched posture, giving a bulkier effect, described as then being more bittern-like. Also noted was the "knock-kneed" appearance of the legs.

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 75-100 cm Grey, white head with black crest, white neck with black stripes. In flight, contrasting black flight feathers. Imm: dull greyish head and neck. Similar: the smaller White-faced and White-necked Herons. Habitat: coastal and freshwater wetlands. Voice: deep croaking and harsh barked 'kraak'.

REFERENCES (1)Western Australian Bird Notes (Newsletter of Birds Australia WA), No 103, Sept. 2002, p 1-4 & 19-20. (2) C oates, BJ & Bishop KD, Birds of Wallacia, Dove, 1997. (3) Morcombe, MK, Field Guide to Australian Birds, p73 (not indexed).(4) Harrison, C & Loxton, H, The Bird: Master of Flight. Blandford, london, 1993. Photo p 73 (perhaps rather pale, possibly overexposed?).

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