Saddle-billed Stork Fact File
Wild 12 years
Captive 19 years
Saddle-billed storks are the tallest species of stork in Africa. These long-legged birds are noticeable due to their long black and red beak which is used to spear prey such as fish.
Active by day they move around in shallow water using their feet to disrupt prey or stabbing the water repeatedly.
Their nest is formed in a tree and created from sticks. Here between 1 and 5 chicks will be raised with food regurgitated by the parents.
Learn more about these brilliant birds by reading on below.
The saddle-billed stork is a tall black and white bird. The neck and head is colored black as is the wings with an iridescent green sheen across it. It is colored white across the breast, belly, underside and the flight feathers.
They have a large beak colored with bands of red and black. Across the top of this is a yellow-shield. It is slightly upturned. This sharp beak is used to help capture prey. At the base of the bill are two small wattles.
Females have a yellow eye while the males is brown. This is an example of sexual dimorphism.
Their legs and feet are colored gray with the knees being pinkish.
Saddle-billed storks stand 1.5m (4.9ft) tall with an average weight between 5 and 7.5kg (11 and 16lbs). They have a wingspan of up to 2.7m (9ft) across. Males tend to be larger than females.
Saddle-billed storks are carnivores. Most of their diet is fish though a range of frogs, small reptiles and mammals, molluscs and insects are also consumed.
When swallowing prey they will stand still and walk around in the reeds or shallow water. They then either stab repeatedly in to the water or stir up prey with their feet.
Soon after eating they will drink some water.
They may wash some of their food items in the water before they eat them. Some have also been recorded to snip the spines off fish before they will feed on them.
Africa is the native home of the saddle-billed stork. Here they can be found in Angola; Benin; Botswana; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d’Ivoire; Djibouti; Eritrea; Eswatini; Ethiopia; Gabon; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea-Bissau; Kenya; Malawi; Mali; Mauritania; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; Nigeria; Rwanda; Senegal; Somalia; South Africa; South Sudan; Sudan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Togo; Uganda; Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Saddle-billed storks make their home near watercourses such as large rivers, marshes, wet grasslands and floodplains. These are located within semi-arid areas, savanna and wetlands.
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Breeding occurs from the end of the rainy season and in to the dry season. This means young fledge during the dry season when prey are concentrated and easier to catch.
Pairs are considered mainly monogamous remaining together for life.
Nesting takes place away from other pairs of saddle-billed storks. They will form a nest from sticks up in a tree. This is lined on the outside with reeds, sedges and mud. The abandoned nests of other birds and cliffs may also be used.
In to the nest females will lay anywhere from 1 to 5 eggs. The pair will take turns incubating the eggs over the 30-35 day incubation period. At hatching the chicks are covered with white down feathers.
After the chicks hatch the parents will eat the egg shell.
The parents will provide care to the saddle-billed stork chicks over the first 45 days of their life. They regurgitate food they have caught to feed the chicks and dribble water for them to drink. Chicks produce a hiss to gain the attention of the adults.
As the grow the parents begin to hand them whole fish to practice eating until 3.5 months old when they become independent.
Fledging occurs between 70 and 100 days old. They may remain with the parents until the next breeding season when they leave to form their own breeding site.
Sexual maturity is achieved at 3 years old.
Saddle-billed storks live a solitary life. Occasionally groups may form but these tend to be small. Most foraging takes place alone though they may live alongside their partner.
Pairs maintain a territory which they will prevent other members of the species from entering.
These birds are active by day.
When flying these large storks have the head and legs drooped below the rest of their body.
Saddle-billed storks are non-migratory and spend much of the day together. Though they complete small movements within their territory to find the optimum foraging site.
These birds are mostly silent with the only vocalization being bill clattering which is primarily performed at the nest. This is due to them lacking a syrinx, which is the vocal organ in birds.
Predators and Threats
These birds are threatened by disturbances or degradation of wetlands such as pesticide contamination or conversion of this habitat to agriculture.
There are believed to be between 1,000 and 25,000 individuals within the population which is considered to be declining.
The saddle-billed stork get its name from the appendage over the beak which resembles a saddle.
Saddle-billed storks are considered the tallest species of stork in Africa.
These birds are depicted in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.
They may also be simply known as the saddlebill.
Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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