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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Species Fact Profile: Saddle-Billed Stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis)

Saddle-Billed Stork

Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis (Shaw, 1800)

Range:  Sub-Saharan Africa
Habitat:  Open Wetland, Rivers, Floodplains
Diet:  Fish, Crustaceans, Frogs, Reptiles
Social Grouping: Solitary or Paired
Reproduction: Monogamous (possibly for life); nest on a platform of sticks in a tree near water, usually used for several years (will sometimes use nests built by other birds); the 1-5 (usually 2-3) eggs are incubated by both for parents 30-35 days; chicks fledge at about 3 months of age and become independent shortly after
Lifespan: 12 Years (Wild), 35 Years (Captivity - Maximum)
Conservation Status: IUCN Least Concern, CITES Appendix III

  • The tallest African stork (possibly the tallest in the world), stand 135-150 centimeters tall, 140 centimeters long, with a wingspan of 2.4-2.7 meters.  Weight 5-7.5 kilograms - males are slightly heavier than females
  • Both sexes look (largely) alike, with a black head, neck, wings, and tail and white underparts.  The massive bill is red with a broad black bands and a yellow shield in front of the eyes (the "saddle" for which the species is named).  Males differ from females in having brown irises; females have yellow iris
  • They lack a voice box; juveniles may make begging sounds, but adults are largely silent, except for bill-clattering, done during copulation or as a warning
  • Males display for females with a "flap-dash", running to and from female while flapping the wings, exposing the white wing patterns inside
  • While primarily solitary, sometimes groups of up to 12 birds are observed; the species becomes less territorial outside of the breeding season
  • Weaver birds will sometimes build their nests alongside saddle-billed stork nests for protection
  • Primarily sedentary and territorial, they may become nomadic and more sociable in times of drought
  • Hunt alone but within sight of each other, either by standing still in shallow water and waiting for prey or by walking through reed beds, stabbing with the beak and trying to startle prey
  • Prey is often washed before being swallowed headfirst; in the case of spiny catfish, the spines are snipping off before the fish is eaten.  Drink copiously after feeding
  • Distinctive bent posture in flight, with the heavy bill dangling below the body
  • Very shy in the wild, but in protected areas can become very tolerant of humans, even tame
  • Captive breeding is still uncommon, and has been achieved only in pairs where the male has been left fully-flighted, not pinioned
  • Sometimes referred to as "the African jabiru", though it's closest relative is not the South American jabiru, but the black-necked stork of Asia and Australia (also sometimes called a jabiru)

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