The heron speaks

From Willoughby's Ornithology (1670s)

The grey and grey blue herons epitomises patience, wisdom, grace and quiet fortitude. And so it comes as a huge surprise when one opens its mouth.

It seems Heronkind's whole purpose in life is to disprove assumption.

You want: A heron sound to match its stately posture. You get: The sound of a pack of coyotes reaching you from prehistory.

The great blue heron sound is the creepiest thing I've ever heard! I thought there was a pack of coyotes tearing something apart in the dark right by my house ( forested area, fields/stream nearby). Was a heron dancing around in the dark and still there the next day - hello, cerise@hc_erise
It threw me off the first time I heard one. I don't know what I was expecting - it's a heron - but I guess my mind thought the sound would match the stately posture. NOPE. - Lisa @Lisavipes

The Lone heron. Is that a "K" or "F" sound?

Book authors feel a responsibility to try and put it into words. Here's some examples describing the grey heron:

  • ‘loud harsh fraank’ . - ‘Britain’s Birds’ via Barbara @skylark22BHC1
  • A sonorous croak” - Observer’s Book of Birds via Barbara @skylark22BHC1
  • 'A single harsh krarnk signals the passage of a lone bird' - Fauna Britannica, Duff Hart-Davies
  • '...the “Frarnk” call, a loud far carrying flight call....' - Heron Conservation
  • 'the usual call is a loud harsh frank' - RSPB Book of British Birds
  • 'some say they sound like they are yelling “Fraunnk” while someone grabs their neck.'
  • '...a wide and raucous vocabulary ... the most common a loud krornk ...' - Book of British Birds, Readers Digest
  • 'A rather a silent bird, the heron does produce a harsh ‘fraank’ or ‘kaark’ call, usually during flight.' - British Library sound archive
  • The common calls are 'kraik, chraïk, gräk, chrät, räh' - Der Graureiher, Gerhard Creutz via @Aesche
  • A single "ka" is supposed to express comfortableness - @Aesche

Lover's Talk: Rwo and Arre-arre-ar-ar-ar

  • 'o, rwa, rwo, arre-arre-ar-ar-ar' - Der Graureiher, Gerhard Creutz via @Aesche
  • The Rwo call is the male’s advertising call. - HC
  • The Arrecall is a landing call, rendered “arre, arre”, tending to a clucking on alighting. - HC
  • The Snap Display ends in a Clop. - HC
  • A Greeting Display includes bill-snaps. Bill Clappering occurs among pairs during formation and when in contact. - HC
  • ‘croaks, grunts and challenging screams’ - ‘Britain’s Birds’ via Barbara @skylark22BHC1

HC = Heron Conservation's description of the Grey Heron

It's not all Happy Endings

  • "The halves of the beak are clapped together in an agitated way (...) when a mating does not come off/work out our when the male heron is rejected by the female.

Stay Alert

  • The “Go” call, rendered “go, go, go”, is an alarm call.
  • The “Oooo” call is an aggressive call, also given in the Forward display. The Oooo call is also used in the Stretch display, becoming a more gurgling “oooo” when given by both sexes in the crouched part of the Stretch - HC

Let the birds speak for themselves

The Heron has featured in the BBC "Tweet of the Day" a few times. Here's a 2 minute introduction to the sounds of heronkind.

Tweet of the Day
BBC Tweet of the Day

More to enjoy:
The Herons - Awards 2020 |
A lean, pale, bird shaking the cinders from its wings rose from the ashes |
Billy the Spar Heron of Aberdaron |
Prehistoric Heron |
Who are Every Heron? |
The Heron in Art