Nature is full of so many amazing animals, and we always get to meet new species. Have you ever seen a shoebill stork?
Shoebill storks are huge and grow up to 5 feet tall. They have huge bills and they are mostly grey. Some call them “whale heads” or “whale-headed storks.”
These huge birds have a rounded tail and yellow eyes. Oh, yes, it’s “toes” are really long. Males and females look similar and they have a small crest coming out from the back of their heads.
A shoebill stork can eat large-sized fish, and they are excellent swamp hunters. They eat snakes, freshwater eels, Nile monitor lizards and baby Nile crocs. Can you believe it?
“The shoebill is capable of inflicting a very powerful bite and is by no means a safe bird for a stranger ignorant of its ways to approach, a fact which we often have to impress on amateur photographers anxious to obtain ‘snap-shots’ of Balaeniceps at close quarters,” 19th-century zoologist Stanley S.
Flower said of Victorian photographers. “It has been amusing to see how rapidly in some cases their enthusiasm has waned, when (as requested) confronted with the great bird screaming shrill defiance and crouching as if were about to spring, with gaping bill and half-spread wings.”
The huge birds can stand motionless for hours. Just like statues with their feet submerged in the water, waiting for their “food” to swim around.
“Clamping down on its prey, the bird will start to swing its massive head back and forth, tipping out whatever stuff it doesn’t want to eat,”
The Audubon society said. “When there’s nothing but lungfish or crocodile left, the Shoebill will give it a quick decapitation with the sharp edges of the bill.”
The shoebill stork digs into ponds to get lungfish out of their aestivation burrows. These birds thrive in wet areas with shallow water and vegetation.
They are more common in the wetlands of central Africa, going from Sudan in the north to Zambia in the south.
Adult birds do something known as “bill-clattering” to greet each other. Their babies do the jackhammer-like sound, too.
Shoebill storks are partially nocturnal and they are somewhat sluggish. They are excellent solitary flyers and soarers. Do you know that couples oftentimes eat at the opposite ends of the territory? They don’t like to feed close to one another.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed shoebill storks as vulnerable. Locals destroy their natural habitat and poachers are also a threat.
Chicks are oftentimes captured and sold on the black market. Fishermen kill them too.
Locals in Zambia protect the large birds. They are also protected by African Parks. It’s a non-profit organization that protects endangered species and local exotic animals.
Fishermen are paid to protect the bees and keep poachers away. Would you spend any time around these scary beauties?