They’re bigger than a child and stand still for hours 😮
With a wingspan of almost 4 feet, it’s no wonder that some may mistake this alien bird for a mechanical prop.
His yellow-green eyes and large shoe-shaped bill give him a comical aspect, and his head jerks in fast spurts like a robot as he glances about.
But you’ll find these shoe-billed storks in their marshy habitats deep in East Africa’s tropical swamps, poised at the water’s edge for hours waiting for the ideal moment to snap down on their favorite fish.
They seem strangely archaic, and despite their friendly demeanor, are known to prey on baby crocodiles and huge monitor lizards. They remain stationary for lengthy periods of time each day, simply waiting for prey to appear.
Shoebills are mostly silent, except when they clap their bills together quickly to greet another bird or to call out to their young.
There’s a reason why shoebills are known as “kings of the marshes,” apart from their massive bills. Their wingspan can exceed 8 feet, and despite their size, they can fly short distances.
It’s difficult not to be fascinated by these giants, with their remarkable looks and unrelenting waiting for food. The ancient Egyptians adored them, and they even depicted them in their art.
However, due to habitat damage from oil exploration and agriculture development, these majestic species have been in decline in recent decades.
They’re also at risk of being trapped in the wild and sold into the illicit bird trade, as well as being kept in zoos.
“They are desirable birds, and the nearly total lack of reproductive success in captivity keeps the wild population under ongoing pressure to fulfill commercial needs,” researchers said in a new conservation strategy. “Shoebills are delicate birds, and previous exports have resulted in substantial mortality during capture, transportation, and imprisonment… Only two zoos have been reported to have produced chicks, one in 2008 and the other in 2009. This means that captive populations cannot self-sustain and must be supplied with wild birds to be viable.”
Residents near shoebill habitats in Mambamba Lake, East Africa, have recognized the birds are targets of the trade and have created volunteer organizations to keep a watch out for suspected poachers and report them to local law enforcement.
They also take guests into the deep marshlands, where they can have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see these iconic birds in the wild.