Goliath Herons

The Goliath Heron (Ardea goliath) is a large wading bird of the heron family Ardeidae. It is found in sub-Saharan Africa, with smaller numbers in Southwest and South Asia.

Important habitats are lakes, swamps, mangrove wetlands, with few cool water, sometimes river deltas.

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Description

This is the world’s largest heron. The standing height averages over 1.4 m (4.5 ft), with a wingspan of at least 7 ft (2 m) and a weight of about 4 kg (9 lb). In flight it has a slow and rather ponderous look and, unlike some other herons, its legs are not held horizontally.

Goliath Heron, Ardea goliath, Masvingo Province, Zimbabwe, Africa

Male and female look similar, with an overall covering of slate gray and chestnut feathers. The head and its bushy crest, face, back and sides of the neck are chestnut. The chin, throat, foreneck and upper breast are white, with black streaks across the foreneck and upper breast.

The lower breast and belly are buff with black streaks. The upper beak is black and the lores (the regions between the eyes and bill on the side of a bird’s head) and orbital areas are yellow with a greenish tinge. The eyes are yellow and legs and feet are black.

Juveniles look similar to the adults, but are paler.

Goliath Heron

Feeding / Diet

Goliath Herons feed on fish, amphibians and little rodents. A diurnal and often rather inactive feeder, this heron hunts by standing in the shallows, or on floating vegetation, intently watching the water at its feet.

As prey appears, the heron rapidly spears it with open upper and lower beak.

Breeding / Nesting

Its breeding season is from November to March. These birds build a large stick nest in trees overhanging water, on the ground and in low bushes.

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