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Sagittarius serpentarius

Photo: Secretarybird
Weights and measures
Length from 125 to 150 cm
Weight from 2,3 to 4,3 kg
Wingspan 2 m
Animal description
The Secretarybird (Sagittarius serpentarius) is a distinctive and remarkable bird species native to the open grasslands, savannahs, and shrublands of Sub-Saharan Africa. This bird stands out not only for its unique appearance but also for its unusual hunting behavior, making it one of the most fascinating birds in the African wilderness.

Standing tall, the Secretarybird can reach up to 1.3 meters (4 feet) in height, with a wingspan that spans approximately 2.1 meters (7 feet). One of its most striking features is its long, crane-like legs, which are adapted for walking and running across the African plains. Unlike most birds of prey that hunt from the sky, the Secretarybird prefers to hunt on the ground, using its powerful legs to stomp on prey such as snakes, insects, rodents, and even small mammals.

The body of the Secretarybird is slender and elongated, covered in soft, grey feathers, with black wing tips and tail feathers that contrast beautifully against its lighter body. Its head is adorned with a crest of long, quill-like feathers that resemble office pens, which is believed to be the origin of its name, as it gives the bird an appearance reminiscent of a secretary with pens tucked behind their ear. The bird's face is fierce yet majestic, with piercing dark eyes, a sharp, hooked beak designed for tearing flesh, and a facial skin that can range in color from red to orange, adding to its striking appearance.

Despite its long legs and terrestrial habits, the Secretarybird is also capable of flight. Its large wings enable it to soar gracefully in the air, although it spends the majority of its time on the ground. When it does take to the skies, it is often for the purpose of scanning its territory for prey or to move between feeding grounds.

Breeding pairs of Secretarybirds are monogamous and territorial. They build large nests out of sticks, which are usually situated in the tops of thorn trees or acacia trees, providing a safe platform for their eggs and chicks. The female typically lays between one and three eggs, and both parents are involved in the incubation and rearing of their young, showcasing a strong familial bond.

The Secretarybird plays a vital role in its ecosystem by controlling populations of potentially harmful species such as snakes and rodents. Unfortunately, this magnificent bird faces threats from habitat destruction, poisoning, and hunting, leading to a decline in its population across much of its range. It is listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), highlighting the need for continued conservation efforts to ensure the survival of this unique species.

In summary, the Secretarybird is a remarkable bird of prey, known for its distinctive appearance, ground-hunting techniques, and important role in the ecosystem. Its presence in the African savannah is a symbol of the wild and unspoiled beauty of the continent, making it a cherished species among wildlife enthusiasts and conservationists alike.
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