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|Common Name: Goliath Heron |
Scientific Name: Ardea goliath
Habitat: Shallow water of rivers & lakes, both salt and fresh; marshes & swamps; tidal estuaries; reefs, mangrove creeks.
Description: Size 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 m) tall; weight averages 9.5 to 9.6 lbs. (4.31 to 4.345 kg). Voice is a loud croak, grunt or hiss. Coloration is a mixture of gray and chestnut, with some black streaking on the white front of the neck. The bill is black, and almost yellow on the keel. The legs are black. The eyes are yellow.
Diet: Eels, crustaceans, large fish, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, birds and insects.
Behaviors: These birds are extremely shy and wary of humans. The birds are fairly sedentary and research indicates they do not migrate. When they fly, they tuck in their long necks and let their long legs trail out behind them, but not on the horizontal as other herons. Legs in flight are held at an angle below the body. They are capable of flying very long distances.
Long plumes on the head, neck, breast and back develop well before the breeding season, assuming their most luxurious color, length and texture when courtship commences. The courtship ritual is unknown. This species is a monogamous, solitary breeder that occasionally forms loose colonies, sometimes with other species.
The breeding season seems generally to coincide with the start of the rainy season. The nest is about 3 feet in diameter, and is usually placed on flattened ledges 2 or 3 feet above the water. Clutches average between 2 to 4 eggs. Incubation begins with the first egg laid, and both parents share in incubating the eggs (24 – 30 days). Sibling rivalry is very intense and siblicide has been observed. Siblicide is an aggressive act or series of aggressive acts towards a sibling that results in the death of that sibling. Siblicide is not the death of a sibling due to natural selection via scramble competition. Siblicide can benefit both the parents and the offspring. This behavior benefits the parents because their progeny that are "best able to provide a return on parental investment" will survive (Alcock, 1998). Offspring benefit because they will receive a greater proportion of the resources provided by the parents.
Special Interest: The Goliath Heron is the largest living heron at 4.9 feet (1.5 m) tall.
Herons lack oil glands that are so prominent in other kinds of water birds. Instead, “powder down”, produced when down feather barbs start to break down, is the substance used for insulation and waterproofing.
Folklore: The name “heron” is related to the Greek word “krizein”, which means, “to cry out or shriek”.
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