The Secretary Bird – Sagittarius serpentarius
I had a book as a child that had a picture of a Secretary Bird in it. The male was walking on the ground while the female looked down on him from her nest in a tree. I always thought that the artist must have gotten it wrong… how can any bird with those long legs get into a tree? Let alone fly?
It took me a lot of years to put the picture in my mind and the real bird together but in October 2010, my then fiance (now husband) and I traveled for five days through the Etosha National Park and I finally saw them! And they were close enough to really watch and observe them. I could even get some really nice photos of them too. We were absolutely thrilled! (They are now on our must-see-list whenever we go to Etosha.)
The male and female are similar in looks while the male is slightly larger than the female. Their unique stride distinguish them from all other birds in the area including cranes. (I can watch this unique gate of them for hours!)
They are listed as fairly common in areas to uncommon. They are also, sadly, listed as near-threatened. (Now who would want to harm these incredible birds?) I’m not sure where Namibia falls into the picture, but I suspect that they are fairly common in Etosha National Park during our summers.
They are usually found in pairs but can be seen solitary. They favour wide open spaces (grassland) – like one finds in Etosha with scattered trees.
The Secretary Bird enjoy a wide variety of prey – anything from insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and their eggs, small mammals and rodents. Most prey, including snakes, are killed by hard blows or the stamping of feet. (They have huge feet!) Their small prey they swallow whole, but larger prey are torn apart before they are swallowed.
They are silent when away from their nests, but when in danger, they make a croaking sound.
The Secretary Bird is monogamous and will build their nests in the top of a tree. These nests are huge stick platforms usually rather visible.
Source: Robert’s Bird Guide, 2007
Photo: Copyright emdt.photography