The African Marabou Stork (Leptoptilos crumeniferus) – often just called the Marabou – is a large bird in the Ciconiidae family. It is often called The Undertaker bird.
Its feathers are grey and white. Its soft, white tail feathers are known as marabou. It has a pink bald head and neck like a vulture with red spots and a long reddish-coloured pouch hanging from its neck, called a wattle or gular sac. It has a conical bill. It has long black legs.
It grows to 1.5 metres (5 feet) tall with a wingspan of 2.6 metres (8.5 feet). In flight, it soars, but when it is on the ground it walks in a hunched manner.
The African Marabou Stork has hollow leg bones and hollow toe bones. The hollow bones help it to fly by making it lighter. Like other storks, the Marabou flies with its long legs trailing behind its body, but it keeps its neck tucked well into its shoulders, shaped like the letter S. This allows the weight of the heavy beak to be distributed on the shoulders.
It is found in sub-Saharan Africa. It lives near water where it is a scavenger feeding on dead animal carcasses, just like a vulture or a hyena. It also eats live animals, such as frogs, lizards, insects, snakes, rats, mice, termites, and birds.
Like the Turkey Vulture, the Marabou Stork poops down its legs and feet. That helps it to keep cool by regulating its body temperature. It also pants when it becomes hot in order to lower its body temperature.
Although it looks and behaves like a vulture, it is not related to the vulture.
It is usually silent, but it will clack its top and bottom parts of its beak together if it feels threatened.
It lives in colonies of about 1,000 individuals.
The African Marabou Stork builds a large nest of sticks at the top of a tree. At about four years of age, it chooses a partner for life. The female lays 2-3 eggs each season, which take about 30 days to hatch.
Young chicks are altricial – bald, blind, and helpless. Both parents feed their chicks. The chicks are fully feathered at 13-15 weeks, but they do not have their black feathers until they are three years old. They are mature when they are four years old.
Location of photographs: Nairobi, Kenya, and Parc Zoologique de Paris in Bois de Vincennes, France
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM