The Goliath heron is Africa largest heron, standing 53-to-55 inches tall, with a wingspan of six-to-seven feet. 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 mandible is black and the lores 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.
The Goliath heron is territorial, usually living alone near water. A diurnal and often rather inactive feeder, the 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 mandibles.
Goliath heron nests are found in trees overhanging water, on the ground and in low bushes. Both sexes build the stick and reed platform nest, which measures three-to-four feet across. Both parents incubate two-to-four pale blue eggs for 29 days. The chicks are covered with long white down.