See a Goliath Heron vs. an African Fish Eagle, Caught on Camera

Written by Eliana Riley
Updated: October 21, 2023
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Main Points

  • Goliath herons are highly protective of their prey. African fish eagles are the only other predator able to steal prey away from goliath herons.
  • African fish eagles are considered kleptoparasites. A kleptoparasite will steal prey from another species with frequency and keep the prey for themselves.

In this epic battle, a goliath heron and an African fish eagle fight over prey within a small body of water. While the eagle begins the conflict, the heron retaliates with full force. Although it’s difficult to predict who will win throughout the fight, one bird comes out victorious. Find out who wins this fight and what consequences follow.

At the start of the video, the camera follows a goliath heron, who walks through the water and occasionally dives in, attempting to grab a fish with its beak. The goliath heron struts about confidently and shakes its gorgeous feathers. After wading in the water for some time, the goliath heron takes flight and shows off its seven-foot wingspan.

The camera begins to focus on an African fish eagle that sits regally atop a nearby tree. After the goliath heron catches a fish from the river, the African fish eagle swoops down and lands on a log nearby the heron. Once the two birds spend some time staring at one another, the eagle grabs a fish from the river and returns it to the log.

The eagle retreats with the fish into the trees, and the heron flies toward the riverbank. The goliath heron catches another fish. The eagle, hoping to steal the fish for itself, swoops down toward the heron with its talons open, ready to grab its prey. The African fish eagle misses its chance, though, and the goliath heron drops the fish.

The goliath heron tries once more to catch prey in the water, but the eagle attempts to intercept the heron again. This action angers the goliath heron, who retaliates by flapping its wings violently toward the African fish eagle. The eagle retreats from its opponent but remains nearby. While the goliath heron continues looking throughout the river for fish, the African fish eagle approaches for the final time.

The goliath heron flaps its wings at the eagle, warding it off and communicating that the eagle should cease its attempts at stealing the heron’s prey. The African fish eagle retreats, and the goliath heron stands strong, defending its territory against all predators. Finally, the goliath heron catches the perfect fish and shows off its brilliantly colored wings.  

Goliath Heron and African Fish Eagle Facts

  • African fish eagles are symbolic to many African cultures through history and legend. Countries like Zambia and South Sudan feature the African fish eagle on their coat of arms.
  • The goliath heron is the largest heron on Earth. The bird measures 4.9 feet tall, and its wingspan reaches between 5.9 and 7 feet long.
  • African fish eagles are not considered true eagles. Rather, they are a type of sea eagle.
  • Goliath herons prefer to hunt for their prey in freshwater. These birds can be found in marshes, wetlands, lakes, and mangroves.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Tomas Drahos/


  1. Nicole Bouglouan, Available here:
  2. Mike Unwin, Available here:
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About the Author

Eliana Riley is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on geography, travel, and landmarks. Eliana is a second-year student at Miami University majoring in English Education and Spanish. A resident of Tennessee and Ohio, Eliana enjoys traveling to national and state parks, hiking, kayaking, and camping.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is a kleptoparasite?

A kleptoparasite is an animal that frequently steals prey from other animals.

Do other animals threaten the goliath heron’s hunt for prey?

While other animals might compete with the goliath heron to capture prey, the African fish eagle is the main threat to the goliath heron.

Do goliath herons and African fish eagles fight frequently?

Fights between the two species happen almost every day.

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