Herons catch live prey, especially in the water. Their neck has an elongated sixth vertebra, forming a kinked “S” shape. This helps herons retract and extend their neck quickly. The long, straight bill is used as a harpoon to capture fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, small mammals, insects, mollusks, and crustaceans. Herons stand motionless, waiting for prey to come into striking distance.
Largest of the herons is the goliath heron, found throughout sub-Saharan Africa. It stands up to 4.6 feet (140 centimeters) and has a wingspan of up to 7.5 feet (230 centimeters).
Look at the Safari Park’s goliath herons during an Africa Tram tour. You may see what looks like a cloud of dust or powder coming off the bird as it shakes its feathers. Modified feathers that crumble at the tips produce a fine powder that keeps the bird’s plumage clean.