Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

heron any one of several stork-like wading birds in the family Ardeidae, but especially the grey heron, Ardea cinerea.

A large bird (average total length just under 1 m/3'), the heron used to be bred for the table in special heronries, recorded in the Netherlands as far back as the 13th century. Young ones, as soon as they were fully developed, would be shaken out of their nests, a spectacle much commented upon by travellers. Herons were eaten in Europe throughout the Middle Ages, often (along with other ‘great birds’ such as the stork, crane, and peacock) as items at important banquets, when they might be presented in dramatic fashion, with their bodies gilt.