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Secretary Bird

Secretary Bird

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Description

The Secretarybird (Often written as two words “Secretary Bird”) has a distinctive head and body shape, with long pink legs, bare orange face, long black crest feathers and hooked beak and long central tail feathers. It is grey on the head and body, with black flight feathers, abdomen and legs. Females are usually a little larger than males. Juveniles are similarly colored but more greyish. Eye color changes from grey to brown and bill from black to blue-grey when adult.

Classification

Class
Aves
Order
Accipitriformes
Family
Sagittariidae
Genus
Sagittarius
Species
serpentarius
Conservation Status
Vulnerable

Key Facts

Height
125-150 cm (49- 59 inches)
Wingspan
200 cm (78 inches)

Social Life
Secretarybirds move in response to changes in rainfall, grazing and wildfires. Juveniles may wander quite far in search of a territory not occupied by a breeding pair. Secretarybirds are not very vocal; the main call is a guttural croak that can become a loud roar, usually made as part of the mating ritual. This ritual includes soaring high into the air, then stalling and swooping down with wings closed. Sometimes this display continues for 15 minutes.

Habitat and Range
Africa, south of the Sahara except in the thick western rainforest; they prefer savannah (grasslands) with a few scattered Acacia thorn trees for nesting and roosting. 

Diet
Secretarybirds are carnivores; they prefer to eat small mammals such as squirrels and other rodents, frogs, tortoises, arthropods and snakes. They kill prey by fast kicks with their long legs and strong toes. They swallow prey whole by gaping their mouth (similar to how snakes eat). They tear apart large prey such as rabbits by holding the prey down with the inner toes. They hunt alone or with their mate searching through the grass for prey.

Lifespan
15-20 years

Predators
As with many birds, habitat loss is a problem. Secretarybirds are regarded favorably in most areas as they kill snakes and rodents that may threaten crops. They readily adapt to areas that have been deforested to create grazing or croplands as long as there are a few trees left for nesting. Chicks are vulnerable to airborne predators such as hawks and eagle owls.

Reproduction
They nest at any time of year when the food is abundant; prefer to fledge their chicks during the summer rainy season. Pairs build a large nest platform from sticks and grass in a tree. The female lays 2 eggs (rarely 3) and incubation is 42-46 days. Chicks hatch with pale grey down (darkens after 3 weeks) and have a straight bill. Fledging occurs at 65-106 days. Parents take turns to feed the chicks. They regurgitate the food onto the nest floor. They will tear prey into smaller chunks for tiny chicks, but when larger chicks are able to feed themselves. Parents also dribble water directly into the chick’s open beak by placing their beak inside the chick’s.

Information

Description

The Secretarybird (Often written as two words “Secretary Bird”) has a distinctive head and body shape, with long pink legs, bare orange face, long black crest feathers and hooked beak and long central tail feathers. It is grey on the head and body, with black flight feathers, abdomen and legs. Females are usually a little larger than males. Juveniles are similarly colored but more greyish. Eye color changes from grey to brown and bill from black to blue-grey when adult.

Classification

Class
Aves
Order
Accipitriformes
Family
Sagittariidae
Genus
Sagittarius
Species
serpentarius
Conservation Status
Vulnerable

Key Facts

Height
125-150 cm (49- 59 inches)
Wingspan
200 cm (78 inches)

Social Life
Secretarybirds move in response to changes in rainfall, grazing and wildfires. Juveniles may wander quite far in search of a territory not occupied by a breeding pair. Secretarybirds are not very vocal; the main call is a guttural croak that can become a loud roar, usually made as part of the mating ritual. This ritual includes soaring high into the air, then stalling and swooping down with wings closed. Sometimes this display continues for 15 minutes.

Habitat and Range
Africa, south of the Sahara except in the thick western rainforest; they prefer savannah (grasslands) with a few scattered Acacia thorn trees for nesting and roosting. 

Diet
Secretarybirds are carnivores; they prefer to eat small mammals such as squirrels and other rodents, frogs, tortoises, arthropods and snakes. They kill prey by fast kicks with their long legs and strong toes. They swallow prey whole by gaping their mouth (similar to how snakes eat). They tear apart large prey such as rabbits by holding the prey down with the inner toes. They hunt alone or with their mate searching through the grass for prey.

Lifespan
15-20 years

Predators
As with many birds, habitat loss is a problem. Secretarybirds are regarded favorably in most areas as they kill snakes and rodents that may threaten crops. They readily adapt to areas that have been deforested to create grazing or croplands as long as there are a few trees left for nesting. Chicks are vulnerable to airborne predators such as hawks and eagle owls.

Reproduction
They nest at any time of year when the food is abundant; prefer to fledge their chicks during the summer rainy season. Pairs build a large nest platform from sticks and grass in a tree. The female lays 2 eggs (rarely 3) and incubation is 42-46 days. Chicks hatch with pale grey down (darkens after 3 weeks) and have a straight bill. Fledging occurs at 65-106 days. Parents take turns to feed the chicks. They regurgitate the food onto the nest floor. They will tear prey into smaller chunks for tiny chicks, but when larger chicks are able to feed themselves. Parents also dribble water directly into the chick’s open beak by placing their beak inside the chick’s.