Goliath Heron (Ardea goliath)

Goliath Heron

[order] CICONIIFORMES | [family] Ardeidae | [latin] Ardea goliath | [authority] Cretzschmar, 1827 | [UK] Goliath Heron | [FR] Heron goliath | [DE] Goliathreiher | [ES] Garza Goliat | [NL] Reuzenreiger


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Ardea goliath AF widespread


Best known of the typical herons are the very large, long-legged and long-necked, plain-hued, crested members of the genus Ardea The species of the Ardeidae (heron) family are mainly tropical birds, but they have spread out all over the world and occupy all but extremely high latitudes and elevation. Most members of this almost worldwide group breed colonially in trees, building large stick nests. Northern species such as Great Blue, Grey and Purple Herons may migrate south in winter, although the first two do so only from areas where the waters freeze. These are powerful birds with large spear-like bills, long necks and long legs, which hunt by waiting motionless or stalking their prey in shallow water before seizing it with a sudden lunge. They have a slow steady flight, with the neck retracted as is characteristic of herons and bitterns; this distinguishes them from storks, cranes, and spoonbills, which extend their necks

Physical charateristics

Its head is red chestnut, with an elongated, bushy chestnut crest. The bill is very large and thick, black above and pale horn below. The irises are yellow rimmed in red, and the lores are green yellow. Sides of the face and neck and back of the neck are a pale chestnut. The chin and throat are white, with black streaks extending down the neck onto the upper breast. Its back and upper wings are slate grey, with a chestnut ?shoulder? patch at the bend of the wing when closed. Lanceolate plumes on the and back are slate grey. The upper breast has white lanceolate plumes that hang over the deep rufous chestnut of the breast and rest of the under parts. Under wings are pale chestnut. The relatively long legs are black, as are the feet. Females smaller, with slightly smaller bill. There is no recognized geographical variation, although if there remains an isolated population in Bangladesh geographic variation is probable. Juveniles are the same as adults, but the chestnut is paler and more rufous. Grey areas are tinged with brown. Undersides are mottled with black and white striping on neck less defined. It lacks elongated plumes.

Listen to the sound of Goliath Heron

[audio:http://www.planetofbirds.com/MASTER/CICONIIFORMES/Ardeidae/sounds/Goliath Heron.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 185 cm wingspan max.: 230 cm
size min.: 140 cm size max.: 160 cm
incubation min.: 24 days incubation max.: 30 days
fledging min.: 42 days fledging max.: 81 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 6  


Africa : widespread


The Goliath Heron is a very aquatic heron of both coastal and inland habitats, rarely wandering far from water. The shallow water margins of large lakes, lagoons, and large river systems are its favored habitat. It typically feeds out from shore in deep water and near floating plants. Over all though, it inhabits many types of shallow waters including rivers and lakes, both salt and fresh, marshes and swamps, tidal estuaries, reefs and sometimes mangrove creeks and even water holes in woodland savanna, from sea level to 2100 m. It is not commonly found around areas of human disturbance.


The nest is a platform of sticks or reeds placed less than 3 m high in trees over water, on partly submerged trees, low bushes, mangroves, cliffs, sedges, papyrus, reeds1 or on bare ground, showing a preference for nest sites that are surrounded by water. The usual clutch is 3 or 4, ranging from 2-5. Incubation begins with the first egg by both parents, leading to size difference among young. Incubation takes 24-30 days. A replacement clutch has been recorded. The young are fed by regurgitation on to the nest floor, only twice daily. Within a few weeks they can scramble out of the nest and defend themselves using Bill Jabbing and size enhancing postures. At about five weeks they leave the nest completely. The parents attend them for a variable time, noted to be from about 40 to 80 days.

Feeding habits

Its diet consists predominantly of large fish 15-50 cm long although it will also take frogs, lizards, snakes, rodents, crabs, prawns and floating carrion

Video Goliath Heron


copyright: Ghislain Gosse


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Goliath Heron status Least Concern


The species is sedentary and regular migration is not documented. However local movements occur in response to foraging conditions. Origin of birds outside the known breeding range needs to be assessed to determine if dispersal occurs.

Distribution map

Goliath Heron distribution range map

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