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Saddle-billed Stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis)

It is a slender, black-and-white stork, boasting a distinct yellow, red, and black bill. When it files, its massive size stands out, and the dark bands at the core of its white wings are conspicuous. This bird is mostly resident but may move in certain parts of its range. Individuals or pairs thrives in rives and wetlands, foraging mostly catfish, but may insects, frog, and even smaller birds.

Read further to know more about the Saddle-billed Stork.

What is a Saddle-billed Stork?

Saddle-billed stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis), or saddlebill, is a large wading bird belonging to the stork family of the Ciconiidae. It is one of the largest and most striking stork species in the African range. This bird is a stunning treat to see whether it is flying above plains searching for feeding sites or lurking through swamps.

Its seven levels of classification are as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Ciconiiformes

Family: Ciconiidae

Genus: Ephippiorhynchus

Species: E. senegalensis

Saddle-billed Stork Physical Description

Saddle-billed stork males have a black-and-white plumage. Their mantle is white down to their lower back and rump, which becomes black. The birds’ underparts, such as the belly, breast, undertail tetrices, and vent, are all white. Flight feathers are also white while undertail are black. Tail and wings are also black but accentuated by green iridescence.

Both the neck and head are black. Their distinct huge, slightly curved bill has a red base, followed by a broad black band, then red again until the tip. They have a yellow saddle or frontal shield, which stands out on their bill. Legs and feet are black, while knees are pinkish. Eyes are dark brown for the males while yellow for the females. Females have similar plumage, but slightly smaller than the male in size and missing the two wattles at the bill’s base.

Saddle-billed storks are the tallest storks in the world, growing around 5 feet tall. They weigh about 5 to 7.2 kilograms and boast a wingspan of 7.9 to 8.9 feet.

Where can they be spotted?

Saddle-billed storks are widespread throughout sub-Saharan and a resident breeder from Sudan to Kenya, Gambia, Senegal, Chad, the Gambia, to South Africa. The species thrives in freshwater areas surrounded by ample tall woodlands where they can roost and nest. They do not move and remain in their territory unless drastic changes, such as heavy flooding or drought, force them to find new feeding and breeding grounds.

Interesting Facts You Should Know About the Saddle-billed Stork

Saddle-billed storks are carnivores, feeding primarily on fish, amphibians, and crustaceans. Occasionally, they will also consume small mammals, small reptiles such as salamanders and lizards, bird eggs, mollusks, and large insects. They use their long bills to stir the water and force fish to come out of their refuge. However, the technique results in the water being muddy, so these storks can sometimes be seen washing their meals before swallowing them whole.

These birds are mute as they have no syrinx or the sound-producing vocal organ. They have no bird call, unable to sing, whistle, trill, or warble and instead depend on bill-clattering as their communication mode. Chicks produce hissing sounds to get their parent’s attention but come mute when they reach adulthood.

These birds can often be spotted singly or in pairs but rarely in small groups consisting of around 10 to 12 individuals. They are monogamous and will form life-long bonds with their partners. Moreover, they are solitary nesters and will breed in the same nest the next breeding season, so they do not have much elegant courtship antics like other birds.

The breeding period usually begins at the onset of the dry when the rainy season has just ended. They build their nest on treetops near water bodies or close to their sources of food. Nest materials used are sticks and twigs for the interior, then lining the interior with mud, reeds, grasses. These birds reuse the nest and will do repairs the next breeding season.

A saddle-billed stork female will lay a clutch consisting of two to three eggs in which the parents will jointly incubate for around 30 to 35 days. After hatching, broods will have white down feathers on their bodies and eventually gain adult plumage as they grow. The chicks will rely on their parents for food for another 70 to 100 days.

Saddle-billed storks are evaluated as Least Concern (LC) under the IUCN Red List, and their population size is estimated to be around 25,000.

WILDLIFE PARKS AND RESERVES WHERE THIS SPECIES IS FOUND:

ZAMBIA

Kafue

Lechwe Plains

Lower Zambezi

South Luangwa

Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park

 

ZIMBABWE

Gona-re-Zhou

Hwange

Lake Kariba

Mana Pools

Matobo Hills

Victoria Falls

 

SOUTH AFRICA

Kruger National Park

 

BOTSWANA

Chobe National Park

Moremi Game Reserve

Savute

 

NAMIBIA

Caprivi Region

Etosha National Park

Saddle-billed Stork
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