Also known as the whale-headed stork, a shoebill stork is a large-bodied but sturdy bird prevalent in the swampy regions of East Africa. Apart from its hefty size, most people know it for its staring abilities – you probably won’t win a contest against it on this front.
The physical characteristics of a shoebill stork are fascinating, as you will learn through this peace. With legs resembling a stork’s, a pelican’s beak, and an eagle’s head, here is everything you need to know about a shoebill’s stork behavior and physical features.
The Physical Characteristics of a Shoebill Stork
An adult shoebill can can be as tall as 3.8 feet (115cm). The birds are primarily gray, covered with broad wings and lengthy legs. They have massive heads (shoe-like) and eyes that are largely not proportional to their bodies.
The wings of a shoebill stork can stretch up to 8 feet. Even though most of these species are grey, you can find blue and yellow ones. They are covered in feathers. An adult weighs about 12 pounds and usually retracts its neck against its body when flying.
When the weather is hot, shoebill storks usually urinate on their legs. When the urine evaporates, it helps keep them cool. Alternatively, these birds can gular flutter to release the excess heat from their bodies.
The Social Behaviors of Shoebill Stork
Even though there is not much information about the social behavior of a shoebill stork, we can certainly tell that they are among the least social animals on earth. Other than the breeding season, the birds are so elusive to each other.
To put this into perspective, one shoebill stork can be as far as 20 meters apart when feeding. Due to this antisocial nature, only one chick born to a couple will survive adulthood. The birds are so ruthless that the biggest chick in a nest will not hesitate to commit fratricide.
Even if the chicks survive, their mother will chase them out of the nest to fend for themselves. They are then expected to survive using the tricks they learned from their mothers.
Shoebill Stork Mating
Shoebill storks usually have monogamous pairs for breeding. Given their antisocial behavior, each couple creates solitary breeding grounds that serve as their territories. The shoebills will defend their nests ferociously every mating and breeding season against competitors and predators.
Like most animal species, shoebill storks have their mating calls. The otherwise largely silent birds usually make loud sounds, similar to a hippopotamus’ but louder, when looking for a mating partner.
The loud, bill-clattering sound and display might be too much for humans and probably other animals. But to the female shoebills, it’s their primary source of mating attraction.
The Habitat of a Shoebill Stork
You can find a shoebill stork in freshwater or marshlands, common in East African regions. The counties here include Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, and South Sudan. After securing their habitats, shoebill storks build nests using papyrus, reeds, and grasses.
How Shoebill Stork Communicates
As aforementioned, shoebill storks are usually antisocial, so there is not much need for communication. However, they communicate and greet each other using bill clattering when needed. Mating partners will use the sound to salute each other in the nest – the chicks can do it too.
Shoebill Stork Hunting Behavior and Techniques
Two major shoebill storks hunting techniques are “wading and walking” and “standing and waiting.” All these happen near the water’s edge. A shoebill stork can stand for hours, waiting for its prey to approach. Once it does, it quickly strikes using its large, curved beak. It rarely misses!
Experts classify shoebill storks as diurnal. This means they often hunt at night, depending on the moon’s brightness.
Are Shoebill Storks Dangerous?
No, Shoebill Storks are not dangerous. Researchers say shoebill storks are super docile and rarely attack humans. Many bird species and animals would usually retaliate if someone approached their habitat. However, shoe bill storks will not threaten a human as close as 6 feet to theirs.
Do not mistake them for being fearful, though. While they might not attack encroaching humans, shoebill storks will stare right at them.
Can Shoebill Storks Fly?
Given their humongous size, it’s hard to imagine that shoebill storks can fly – but they do! These birds fly with their necks retracted and can flap their wings up to 150 times per minute. They are among the slowest birds in the world.
The Key Takeaway
Shoebill storks are large birds with big, shoe-like beaks and long legs that inhabit the swampy areas of the East African region. They are super docile and very antisocial. Most people know them for their staring prowess and ability to stand for long hours.