Ardea goliath Cretzchmar, 1826, Bahr el Abiad.
OTHER COMMON NAMES
French: Hйron goliath; German: Goliathreiher; Spanish: Garza Goliat.
The largest modern heron, it is gray with chestnut head, neck, and belly. Length is 53–55+ in (135–140+ cm).
Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent.
Aquatic heron of both coastal and inland habitats, rarely wandering far from water. Occurs along the shallow water margins of large lakes, lagoons, and large river systems; also in tidal estuaries, reefs, and occasionally mangrove creeks and water holes in woodland savanna.
A solitary hunter that defends large feeding territories. Stands in or near the water, or walks slowly, waiting for prey to appear. Moves to new areas by walking quickly or hopping.
FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET
Because of its size, this heron can wade well away from shore. Fish are caught by a lunging bill thrust that captures the fish deep in the water. It often spears them, running both mandibles through the prey. The fish is placed on the tops of floating plants and killed by restabbing, beating, and poking it with the bill. One-quarter of prey may be lost by escape or through piracy by other fish predators. Diet consists almost entirely of fish; they also will eat prawns, frogs, lizards, snakes and small mammals.
Breeding season coincides with the start of rains. Some populations breed year-round, and others may not breed every year. Nesting is solitary, near colonies, and within single-species or mixed-species colonies. Solitary birds nest on riverbanks, lakeshores, and small islands. Nest sites include sedge, reeds, small trees, low bushes, mangroves, and cliffs. On islands, any tree, shrub, stone, or bare ground available can be used. The nest is a large platform made of sticks or reed stems at least 3.4–4.9 ft (1–1.5 m) in diameter. Eggs are pale blue, and the usual clutch is three or four, ranging from two to five. Young fledge at about five weeks. Older young can trample younger siblings, leading to brood reduction. Production is one or two young per successful nest.
Not threatened. However, the status of this species is currently unknown in south Iraq/Iran and the Indian subcontinent, where birds are infrequently reported.
SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS
Well known in its range, but little is understood of important aspects of its biology.
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