Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Secretary Bird

I was actually looking for the gazelle who had disappeared over the hill when this amazing sight greeted me. He was coming at a fast pace and glanced over at me as he sailed by, his expression saying "Hello dear lady, who are you?" but he didn't wait around long enough for my mouth to to form the answer. I think I actually said, "Good grief!" He had gone before I could take any photos but fortunately came full circle and these photos were shot as he went around and around. I find that when I am lucky enough to view wildlife in such a close proximity my patience knows no bounds, and I waited a considerable time to see this amazing bird circle the runner's track before I moved on to see other fascinating and very beautiful animals.

The Secretary Bird is a bird of prey, but unlike other raptors it has long legs, wings and a tail. The single species of its family, the bird gets its name from its crest of long feathers that look like the quill pens 19th century office workers used to tuck behind their ears.

It is basically dove-grey in color, with black on the wings, thighs and elongated central tail feathers. The short, down-curved bill is backed by an area of bare, red and yellow skin and it stands three feet high.

The Secretary bird is widespread throughout Africa south of the Sahara. It is found in open areas of plains and savanna country, and often congregates at areas that have been recently burnt, where mammals are deprived of cover and often injured. Oh dear, well it does say it's a bird of prey.

These birds are basically terrestrial, taking to flight only when hard-pressed. Usually only single birds are found, with members of a pair some distance apart. It walks well on extremely long legs, and a bird may plod up to twenty miles in a day. When pursued, it relies on its speed to escape. It finds most of its food on the ground and has a partiality for snakes. It grabs the snake with its strong toes and beats it to death on the ground, while protecting itself from bites with its large wings. Finally, it seizes its prey and hurls it into the air several times to stun it. (In South Africa, these birds are kept in captivity to destroy snakes and rats.) In addition to finding food with its beak, the Secretary bird will also stamp on grass tussocks with its feet to scare up lizards, grasshoppers, and small mammals or birds.

All this information was found at the zoo's website.

16 comments:

  1. Actually quite a cute bird! even if a prey animal

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  2. Great shots Denise. I think the best I've ever seen of that kind of bird.

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  3. these are great photos. Another bird to put on my must see list.

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  4. Good gracious! You really got a whole bunch of excellent photos! Thanks for teaching us about this unusual, interesting bird.

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  5. awesome pics and information.
    looks as if the bird is walking the ramp at a fashion show!
    so elegantly pretty, belies its capability of throwing up snakes for a meal!

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  6. I have heard of the secretary bird but have never seen one, not even a picture. It's quite a character and looks very important, can see how it got it's name too. Great shots, Denise, especially the last one.

    A x

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  7. Look at them legs. How do you whistle across the internet?

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  8. Miss Bird, take a letter!
    Great post & photos; Aloha-

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  9. He is a handsome little fella, isn't he!??

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  10. That is one weird looking bird Denise{:)

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  11. WOW, that is some bird. I don't know what we would do, if one like that ever flew into our yard. I suppose it's way too cold for it here.

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  12. Excellent essay on this fascinating creature. I'd heard of them before, but only because of a book I'd read in my childhood which featured a school (wait for it) secretary who'd been dubbed "The Secretary Bird" because the hairstyle she wore resembled the plumage of this bird. Since they had to explain how she came to have this moniker, they gave a brief physical description of the bird. But nothing so detailed as this!

    Great captures of an elusive subject!

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  13. An amazing bird, and in your last shot, the 'portrait' s/he looks quite charming!

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  14. Great shots! What an interesting bird. I've never seen one. I know what you mean about patience. More often than not it pays off.
    :-)

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  15. Am I the only one who find this bird very comical. Certainly makes me want to smile.
    Still a fantastic series of shots as is the other bird shots in this blog too. Interesting to see these birds so unknown to me (apart from the crane and the heron).

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