The Marabou stork – the undertaker bird, Safari Uganda

marabou-storkMarabou storks are really large birds that belong to the ciconildae stork family. Marabou storks are found in Africa, in the south of the Sahara and they can live in both in the wet as well as the arid places and they like settling near human settlements.these can be seen during your Safari in Uganda

They are very much noticeable because of their so long grey legs although they look white. They can up to 3.19m tall, weigh about 9 kg  although the males may grow a bit larger and have a wingspan of 3.19m across maximum. Marabou storks are among the birds with the largest beaks ever which measures between 26 to 35cm. Usually, the male marabou storks are bigger in size compared to the female ones. In terms of color, they have got dark grey wings, featherless neck and pink face. At the forehead are some black spots and at the base of its bill.   This beak is so pointed more like a horn and may appear greenish yellow but it is often pink and so is the fleshy wattle that can also be inflated. After being inflated, it can measure between 25 to 35cm diameter. Marabou stork’s underside/ belly region is off-white in color and its tail has really short, soft and white feathers.   

 Natural Habitat

Marabou storks are African birds, they are very common in the southern parts of the Sahara desert therefore they are among the birds that you can expect to find in the reserved areas of central, south and East African countries Africa. They prefer the open dry savannah, the swamps, grassland, along the river banks and shores of lakes where they can find some fish to feed on.

There are very many of them in Angola, Botswana, in Burkina Faso, Benin, Burundi, there are many of the Central African Republic, Guinea, Chad, in DR. Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Namibia, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Gahna, Kenya, Niger delta especially, Mali, Nigeria, Mauritania, in Mozambique too, Northern Cameroon, there are plenty of them in Rwanda’s Akagera park, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Somalia, in South Africa, Swaziland, in Tanzania too, and in  Uganda as well as in  Zimbabwe, to mention but a few countries.

Marabou storks often find places near fishing villages a lot more attractive because of the fact that they then get to steal and feed on the scraps that the fisher men leave behind.

Habits and behavior

Marabou storks display their dominance behavior by inflating that air sac of theirs and this act also helps to thermo regulate the bird.  They lie in large groups of about 1000 members but on average, they are usually 40 to 120 members in a group. They often gather late in the afternoon hours at their communal roosts and before they start their day in the morning, they have to wait for the thermals to is a bit and then fly away. During the times when food is scarce, then the whole group is forced to relocate to another place.

Whenever a marabou Stork gets really hot, they squirt excrement down onto the legs so as to cool down and when they feel cold, they then spread their wings out. For public display, they use their air or gular sack and they start clapping their beaks together very rapidly the moment they feel threatened by anything.

While they are in flight, a marabou stork flies while its neck is retracted a character that is not common in other stork birds. This is done because they beak is very heavy therefore they have to put some of its weight serves to put some of the weight onto their shoulders to support that weight.

Their maturity, reproduction and life span

Marabou storks are normally considered sexually mature at 4 years and its just one out of all the 3 or 4 that were hatch get to maturity stage.

Usually, the marabou storks breed during dry season of the year because around that time, water levels in the water bodies is really low which means the fish and birds are very easy to catch. They come together in large groups composed of about 20 pairs to man thousands of them and within the groups, the male ones establish their territories. The pair that is in courtship builds their own nests using sticks and it is placed as high as 10-30 meters from the ground in a tree or on a cliff and sometimes they build on buildings.                                                                                                              Within each nest they place two or three eggs with an interval of 2 to 3 days and after 29 or 31 days, the eggs will hatch. They come out fully covered with that grey fur and it takes them about 13-15 weeks to start fledging. Unfortunately, it’s just 1 out of the 3 little ones that will make it to that start and maturity.

Marabou storks have a life span of 25 years while they are in the wilderness.

Feeding Habits and Diet

Marabou storks are carnivores and mainly they scavenge.marabou-stork-feed They fly high up in the sky as they survey the ground looking for what to eat. They do feed on various dead or alive prey which include the lizards, almost all sorts of insects, the frogs, the rats and mice, smaller birds, the fish, the young crocodile too and crocodile eggs as well as snakes.

Usually when they go out to hunt, marabou storks follow the vultures and all they do is wait for the vultures to drop what is left to their meat and the Marabou stork feed on that. This is the case because the Vultures are better than the Marabou storks at tearing the carrion.

They also follow the large mammals because they tend walk along with insects and at one point they throw them up and the storks eat them.

Basic facts

Marabou Stork have continuously increased in number because of the increasing dumps across the Africa continent where the Marabou storks find a lot of carrion to feed on.

During the ancient days, Marabou stork feathers were very much used in trimming hats and gowns as well as making scarves.

They are called the undertaker birds because of how their appearance from behind.

Their survival is not that threaten however in Nigeria, people hunt them and trade them to medicinal men who believe they make medicine out them.

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