Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Interesting Animals: Secretary Bird

A wild secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius) in the Serengeti.
A captive secretary bird
This birds is one of the many fascinating looking birds that can be found in the world. The species' rather unexpected common name comes from the feathers on its head, resembling quill pens tucked behind the ear as secretaries would do. It is native to most of Sub-Saharan Africa. These birds prefer areas with unobstructed views, mainly grasslands and savannas. These birds can be up to 1.2 meters tall with an even longer wingspan and can weigh as much as 4.27 kilograms. For a raptor, these birds has quite unusual, especially since they have such long legs. Though they can fly, they are mostly found on the ground.

Since these birds are raptors, they eat meat. The will eat just about anything they can find, though their diet is mostly small species such as insects, other arthropods, and mammals. Secretary birds are also known for killing and eating very dangerous snakes such as cobras and mambas. Their methods for doing so are fascinating to watch since they will actually kick them to death! This stomping action is actually an important aspect of their hunting, being used to either flush out prey and/or to kill it.

Here is footage of one of these fascinating creatures killing a snake.

This species is currently listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. Major threats including disturbing habitat, capture for trade purposes, and hunting. Secretary bird numbers are currently decreasing.

References are Animal Diversity Web and IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Images are from Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons licenses: one, two.

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