The Shoebill, Balaeniceps rex, also known as Whalehead, is a very large bird related to the storks. It derives its name from its massive shoe-shaped bill.
The Shoebill is a very large bird, averaging 1.2 metres (4 ft) tall, 5.6 kilograms (12.3 lbs) and a 2.33 metres (7.7 ft) wingspan. The adult is mainly grey while the juveniles are browner. It lives in tropical east Africa in large swamps from Sudan to Zambia.
This species was only discovered in the 19th century when some skins were brought to Europe. It was not until years later that live specimens reached the scientific community. However, the bird was known to both ancient Egyptians and Arabs. There are Egyptian images depicting the Shoebill, while the Arabs referred to the bird as abu markub, which means one with a shoe, a reference to the bird's distinctive bill.
Shoebills feed in muddy waters, preying on lungfish and similar fish. They nest on the ground and lay 2 eggs.
The population is estimated at between 5,000 and 8,000 individuals, the majority of which live in Sudan. BirdLife International have classified it as Vulnerable with the main threats being habitat destruction, disturbance and hunting.
The Shoebill is one of the bird taxa whose taxonomic treatment is murky. Traditionally allied with the storks (Ciconiiformes), it was retained there in the Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy which lumped a massive number of unrelated taxa into their "Ciconiiformes". More recently, the shoebill has been considered to be closer to the pelicans (based on anatomical comparisons; Mayr, 2003) or the herons (based on biochemical evidence; Hagey et al., 2002). The fossil record does not shed much light on the issue, as usual when dealing with birds. So far, two fossil relatives of the shoebill have been described: Goliathia from the early Oligocene of Egypt and Paludavis from the Early Miocene of the same country. It has been suggested that the enigmatic African fossil bird Eremopezus was a relative too, but the evidence for that is very spurious indeed. All that is known of Eremopezus is that it was a very large, probably flightless bird with a flexible foot, allowing it to handle either vegetation or prey.
The Hammerkop (Scopus umbretta), also known as Hamerkop, Hammerhead, Hammerhead stork, or Anvilhead, is a medium-sized (56 cm) bird with a long shaggy crest. The shape of its head with a curved bill and crest at the back is reminiscent of a hammer, hence its name. Its plumage is a drab brown all over.
It occurs in Africa south of the Sahara, Madagascar and southwest Arabia in all wetland habitats, including rice paddies. Normally it is seen alone or as a pair. The food is typical of long-legged wading birds, including fish, frogs, rodents and similar small animals.
It builds a huge haystack-like stick nest nearly 2 m across in a tree fork, and lays 3 to 6 eggs. The nest is reused each year, getting larger and larger as the Hammerkop renovates it. The entrance to the nest remains at the bottom, to deter potential predators. The Hammerkop has a noisy call.
The Hamerkop is usually included in the Ciconiiformes, but might be closer to the Pelecaniformes. It constitutes a family (Scopidae) and genus (Scopus) all on its own because of its unique characteristics.
lowry park zooshoe billed storkbirdsHammerkop