Today at Light Future Art, we’re going to share some interesting facts about a rare and unique animal: the shoebill stork!
1. While they have the name and bodies of storks, evolutionary evidence points to them being closely related to pelicans and herons.
2. Although the typical diet of shoebill storks is fish, they have also been known to prey on small reptiles or mammals who live near the water, and have even been known to attack Nile crocodiles!
3. The shoebill stork’s scientific name actually predates its common name. Balaeniceps rex means “whalehead king”, from the Latin words “balaena” and “caput”, which was shortened to “-ceps”. Some people still call this stork “whalehead”.
4. However, the ancient civilizations in Africa also observed and were fascinated by the shoebill stork. The ancient Arabic name given to these birds is “Abu-markub”, meaning “Father of a Slipper”, so the similarity between their bill and a shoe has always been noticed.
5. Shoebill storks try not to fly very often or far, preferring to forage on the ground instead of spotting food from the air. Their flapping frequency is one of the slowest of any bird, only about 150 flaps per minute. They also tend to alternate flapping and gliding and can glide as efficiently as condors or some larger storks.
6. There is plenty still unknown about shoebill storks, as they choose to live in areas that are difficult to reach for humans, and for defending their territory with a loud vocalization that sounds somewhat like a machine gun. Needless to say, they sure know how to keep humans away from them.
7. The habitat of the shoebill stork overlaps with that of hippopotamuses. Hippos submerging themselves in water to hunt or cool off tend to drive fish to the surface, where the shoebill stork is able to snatch them up.
8. While many species of birds nest in large groups, shoebill storks remain solitary. A pair of shoebill storks will defend an area of land around their nest, which can be as large as 1.5 square miles.
9. Both the mother and father take part in caring for their chicks, such as defending them, bringing them food, and keep them in the shade. It takes about four months for the young birds to become independent, and they aren’t fully mature until about three years of age.
10. Shoebills storks can live for up to 35 years in the wild. They are able to see seven generations after their own hatch. Some of the oldest shoebills today were born in the early 80s.
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