The Shoebill Stork is named for its distinctive bill shaped like a shoe! The pre-historic looking Shoebill Stork stands up to 1.5 m. tall. It is so elusive and solitary that even breeding pairs are rarely seen together!
Also known as the Whale-headed Stork, this bird is a resident of central and eastern Africa and can be found in the dense swamps of Sudan, Ethiopia, Zambia, Tanzania, Congo and Rwanda.
This stork has a captivating appearance and weighs about seven kilogrammes. Its plumage is a smoky blue-grey colour that is complemented by its pale yellow eyes and long greyish-black legs. The Shoebill also has a characteristic tuft of feathers that stick out from the back of its head! The species has evolved to live in poorly oxygenated, shallow waters of swamps as fish have to come up to the surface regularly, this makes them easy to catch! The Shoebill Stork hunts at night. It stands still as a statue until it spots a fish coming to the surface. Then it strikes out with lightning speed and gobbles up its meal.
Known for its solitary nature, the breeding period of these birds coincides with the dry season. Since it nests on the ground, this is the safest time of the year to lay its eggs as there is little chance of flooding. The female lays between one to three eggs and incubates them for about a month before they hatch.
This species of bird is listed as vulnerable and only 5,000-8,000 individuals are found in the wild today. Though their nests are sometimes trampled on by wild herbivores, the main threat to them is habitat destruction, hunting and capture by humans.
First appeared in: Sanctuary Cub, November 2014.