The Secretary Bird (Sagittarius serpentarius) is an African bird of prey, a raptor. It is the only bird of prey that is terrestrial (it hunts for food while walking on land, rather than swooping on their prey).
The Secretary Bird has long-legs, with a slender but powerful body that looks like an eagle with an eagle-like head. It measures 1.2 metres (3.9 feet) long with a 2 metre (7 feet) wingspan. It is longer and taller than other raptors.
The Secretary Bird has 20 black crest feathers that look like quill pens behind its ears. It has a light grey body, black thighs and flight feathers, and white wing linings. Its tail has a pair of long central streamers. Its legs have thick scales to protect the bird from snakebite.
Secretary Birds eat snakes, and also lizards, grasshoppers, mice, and birds’ eggs. Secretary birds hunt on foot, in pairs or small groups. Prey is flushed out of tall grass when the Secretary Birds stomping on the ground. They chase their prey, striking their prey with their beak. They jump on larger prey, such as snakes.
It lives in open grasslands. Their nest is large, usually built of sticks high in a thorny Acacia tree. Nests are about 2.5 metres (8 feet) wide and 30 centimetres (12 inches) deep. Females usually lay two pale-green eggs that hatch in seven weeks. Both parents feed the chicks by regurgitating their food.
The young chicks can be eaten by other large birds, such as crows, hornbills, eagles, and owls.
The secretary bird is mainly threatened by loss of habitat and deforestation. The species are assessed as vulnerable due to the decline of their habitat.
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM