When you think of birds of prey, your mind likely wanders to hawks and eagles, but one of the coolest birds that exist is the Secretary Bird. It’s native to Africa and is a firm favourite in South Africa and the Kruger National Park respectively. Its unique behaviour is the reason many visitors frequent these areas to try to catch a glimpse of it.
What They Are:
The name of the bird (Secretary Bird) is said to come from the 1800s where male secretaries would wear goose-quill pens behind their ears and often wore black trousers that reached the knee. This look greatly matches the dark quills that extend out the back of the Secretary Bird’s head as well as its dark feathers that also end at the knee. These birds of prey, though related to other raptors, are the single species in their family, aka the Sagittariidae.
What They Do:
One of the most fascinating things about these birds is the fact that they spend most of their time on the ground walking. This is attributed to the fact that they prey on animals like snakes, small mammals, birds and large insects which tend to slither and crawl around between the grass. The birds are extremely proficient at hunting snakes, using their scaly legs and feathery wings to protect them from bites, as well as their powerful kicks to knock out their prey. They also take advantage of wildfires, by swooping in to get any injured animals or animals escaping the flames.
Interesting Facts About Them:
- Though they spend most of their time on the ground, walking around, they are capable of flight and actually choose to create their nests high up in trees
- They’ll only take to the air if they feel they really need to, preferring to walk
- The animals they catch on the ground are often eaten whole
- They grow to be about 1.2 to 1.5 metres tall
- They’ll eat anything from snakes, frogs, rats, small mammals, insects and young birds
- They pair up for life, often staying in the same nest for lengthy periods
- Their scientific name is Sagittarius serpentarius
- They have the longest legs of all the birds of prey
A visit to the Kruger National Park will up your chances of spotting these magnificent birds. Why not book some time at Yingwe Lodge for a comfortable stay? Book here.