The Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex) is a large wading bird with a beak (bill) that looks like a shoe. It is from tropical east Africa, in countries such as Uganda, South Sudan, Uganda, and Zambia, especially in marshes and wetlands with papyrus plants.
The Shoebill has blue-grey feathers, grey legs with large feet, a short neck, a short grey crest, green-blue eyes, and a large pinkish-grey beak. It has the third longest beak of all birds, after the pelican and the stork.
The Shoebill can grow to 110-140 centimetres (43-55 inches) tall. It rarely flies, although it will fly for short distances up to 500 metres (1,640 feet). On the ground, it moves slowly and often stands still for long periods.
Shoebills are solitary feeders. It feeds in muddy waters using its excellent vision to find fish. It is piscivorous, which means that it eats mainly fish. It is a wader; wading patiently in the water, up to its knees. When it sees a fish, it will strike quickly. It eats catfish, lungfish, tilapia, water snakes, frogs, snails, and small lizards.
Females and males make their nest from plants found near the marshes. Females lay one to three white eggs, and both parents look after the eggs, which hatch after about 30 days. The parents choose the strongest chick and look after it, often letting the other chicks die.
The young chick can fly after about 112 days. Its beak gets larger as it grows, and is fully developed after 43 days.
The Shoebill is regarded as a vulnerable species with a population estimated to be between 5,000-8,000.
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM