We positively identified this heron as a Goliath Heron based on the greater size compared to the Grey Heron which fed in the vicinity and other morphological characteristics. The prominent, widely spread black color patches on neck, large grayish bill and grey legs helped us to identify the species. Unfortunately, we were unable to photograph it.
Goliath Heron (Ardea goliath) is the largest among the Herons, about 140cm body length. It is very much larger than the Grey heron (Ardea cinerea) and the Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea), which are commonly found in Sri Lanka. It has a darker bill, brown crown, plain grey upper wings, dark chestnut under wings and dark grey legs. Goliath herons typically found in marshes, lagoons, sea shores and near fresh or saline water bodies in dry lowlands.
This species was recorded only handful of occasions in the island and that includes two specimen records. Hence, it is categorized as a vagrant species in Sri Lanka. Following records are documented in ‘Annotated checklist of the Birds of Ceylon’ by W.W.A. Phillips (1978).
“Specimens were shot by Mr. Le Mesurrier on 4th April, 1878, on the banks of the Mahaweli ganga, a few miles above Kandakardu in the Tamankada Pattuwa and by Mr. Exham Swyny, early in 1879, at Palatupane in the Kirinde District. Another example was seen on a latter occasion at Willapalawewa. Recently one was seen at Kokkare Villu, in Wilpaththu, by Mr. D. Summers-Smith and Dr. T.S.U. De Zylva, in February 1975”.
Recently a single bird was recorded at Negambo Lagoon in 1990 by R.I. De Silva.
Reported by FOGSL members H.G. Salindra Kasun Dayananda and K.D. Sameera Ariyarathna.