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Saddle-bill Stork by Cheryl Crowley

Stork, Saddle-billed

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Description

This largest of the storks has a white chest and upper back, iridescent black neck and lower back and wings. Legs are black with red knees and feet. There is a red patch (the “shield”) on the chest, which is darker red in the breeding season. Males are larger than females. Juveniles are a dull gray; at two years they are a duller colored version of the adult.

The bill is quite distinctive. About a third of the beak tip is red, the center black and where the beak meets the head, red on the bottom with a yellow saddle (dip) in the top. Saddlebills are unique because the males and females are dimorphic (different). The iris of the male eye is brown and the female’s is yellow.

Classification

Class
Aves
Order
Ciconiiformes
Family
Ciconiidae
Genus
Ephippiorhynchus
Species
E. senegalensis
Conservation Status
Least Concern

Key Facts

Height
145 cm (57 inches)
Weight
6 kg (about 13 pounds)
Wingspan
250 cm (98 inches)

Social Life
Saddlebills live in pairs or small groups up to 12 birds. They move about a home territory based on optimal feeding conditions. Young may stay near the parents for 1-2 years. When they fly, their necks are stretched out. At rest, their long bill drops down onto their chest.

Saddlebills do not have a syrinx (the vocal organ of a bird like the human larynx) so they are silent. They bill-clatter when nesting and the chicks make a hissing sound to attract their parents’ attention.

Habitat and Range
Saddlebills live in varied aquatic habitats, such as marshes, wet grasslands and the edges of lakes and rivers. They tend to avoid forests. They live in tropical Africa from Ethiopia to Senegal and south to South Africa.

Diet
They eat mainly fish (up to 500 g, about a pound). Opportunistically eat crabs, shrimp, frogs, small mammals, reptiles and young birds. When hunting they stand still or walk slowly, stabbing their bill into the water to grab any prey that they contact. When Saddlebills catch a fish they snip off any spines, wash the fish, then swallow it headfirst. They will also scavenge fish regurgitated by cormorants.

Lifespan
25-35 years

Predators
Chicks may be vulnerable to airborne predators or snakes, but the main issues are due to shrinking wetlands.

Reproduction
Saddlebills reach sexual maturity around 3 years. The mating season starts late in the rainy season or the dry season. This may be timed so that the chicks leave the nest at the end of the dry season. They nest by themselves in the top of a tree. The nest is a large, flattish stick nest lined with mud, reeds and sedges. Saddlebills are monogamous and will reuse the same nest year after year.

The female usually lays 2-3 eggs; incubation is 30-35 days.  Chicks hatch covered with white down.  They fledge at 70-100 days. Saddlebills do not breed every year.

Information

Description

This largest of the storks has a white chest and upper back, iridescent black neck and lower back and wings. Legs are black with red knees and feet. There is a red patch (the “shield”) on the chest, which is darker red in the breeding season. Males are larger than females. Juveniles are a dull gray; at two years they are a duller colored version of the adult.

The bill is quite distinctive. About a third of the beak tip is red, the center black and where the beak meets the head, red on the bottom with a yellow saddle (dip) in the top. Saddlebills are unique because the males and females are dimorphic (different). The iris of the male eye is brown and the female’s is yellow.

Classification

Class
Aves
Order
Ciconiiformes
Family
Ciconiidae
Genus
Ephippiorhynchus
Species
E. senegalensis
Conservation Status
Least Concern

Key Facts

Height
145 cm (57 inches)
Weight
6 kg (about 13 pounds)
Wingspan
250 cm (98 inches)

Social Life
Saddlebills live in pairs or small groups up to 12 birds. They move about a home territory based on optimal feeding conditions. Young may stay near the parents for 1-2 years. When they fly, their necks are stretched out. At rest, their long bill drops down onto their chest.

Saddlebills do not have a syrinx (the vocal organ of a bird like the human larynx) so they are silent. They bill-clatter when nesting and the chicks make a hissing sound to attract their parents’ attention.

Habitat and Range
Saddlebills live in varied aquatic habitats, such as marshes, wet grasslands and the edges of lakes and rivers. They tend to avoid forests. They live in tropical Africa from Ethiopia to Senegal and south to South Africa.

Diet
They eat mainly fish (up to 500 g, about a pound). Opportunistically eat crabs, shrimp, frogs, small mammals, reptiles and young birds. When hunting they stand still or walk slowly, stabbing their bill into the water to grab any prey that they contact. When Saddlebills catch a fish they snip off any spines, wash the fish, then swallow it headfirst. They will also scavenge fish regurgitated by cormorants.

Lifespan
25-35 years

Predators
Chicks may be vulnerable to airborne predators or snakes, but the main issues are due to shrinking wetlands.

Reproduction
Saddlebills reach sexual maturity around 3 years. The mating season starts late in the rainy season or the dry season. This may be timed so that the chicks leave the nest at the end of the dry season. They nest by themselves in the top of a tree. The nest is a large, flattish stick nest lined with mud, reeds and sedges. Saddlebills are monogamous and will reuse the same nest year after year.

The female usually lays 2-3 eggs; incubation is 30-35 days.  Chicks hatch covered with white down.  They fledge at 70-100 days. Saddlebills do not breed every year.