Marabou stork

This Nature’s cleaners are the largest & heaviest living stork

A large member of the stork family that is easily identifiable by its size, bald head, and the prominent gular sac located at its neck. This bird has a somewhat prehistoric appearance, with a heavy bill and a wingspan that can reach up to 2.6 meters (8.5 feet), making it one of the largest winged birds.

Found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, the Marabou Stork inhabits a range of environments, from arid savannas to lakeshores and riverbanks. It is not uncommon to find these birds in urban areas, foraging at landfills, which have become an important food source for them, especially on the outskirts of cities and towns.

The Marabou Stork’s diet is impressively diverse. These opportunistic feeders consume everything from termites, locusts, and other large insects to fish, frogs, snakes, rodents, and even small birds. Their dietary flexibility includes scavenging for carrion and feeding on the carcasses of dead animals, which plays a crucial role in their ecosystems by preventing the spread of disease.

The appearance of the Marabou Stork is unmistakable: a dark grey to black body, a white belly, and a featherless pinkish to reddish head and neck, which are thought to be adaptations for their scavenging lifestyle, as a lack of feathers in these areas prevents blood and other substances from soiling their plumage during feeding.

One of the more unusual features of the Marabou Stork is its inflatable gular sac. During courtship displays, this sac is inflated, producing a variety of sounds that are part of the bird’s complex communication repertoire. These sacs are also used for thermoregulation to cool the blood.

Breeding takes place in large colonies where nests are built high in trees or on cliffs. Nests are constructed from sticks and can be quite large. Both parents share in incubation and chick rearing, which includes regurgitating food for their young.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Angola
2016
Benin
2016
Botswana
2016
Burkina Faso
2016
Burundi
2016
Cameroon
2016
Central Af. Rep.
2016
Chad
2016
Congo-Brazzaville
2016
Côte D’ivoire
2016
DR Congo (Kinshasa)
2016
Djibouti
2016
Eritrea
2016
Eswatini
2016
Ethiopia
2016
Gabon
2016
Gambia
2016
Ghana
2016
Guinea-Bissau
2016
Guinea
2016
Israel
2016
Non-Breeding
Kenya
2016
Liberia
2016
Non-Breeding
Malawi
2016
Mali
2016
Mauritania
2016
Mozambique
2016
Namibia
2016
Niger
2016
Nigeria
2016
Rwanda
2016
Senegal
2016
Sierra Leone
2016
Somalia
2016
South Africa
2016
South Sudan
2016
Breeding
Spain
2016
Non-Breeding
Sudan
2016
Tanzania
2016
Togo
2016
Uganda
2016
Zambia
2016
Zimbabwe
2016

Did you know?

  • Gular sacs are multifunctional and are used for making sounds, thermoregulation, showing dominance and are inflatable.
  • Ringed Marabous are seen in Spain, which is further south dispersion from their geographic range.
  • The draping black wings & huge size make it looks like a grim reaper in the real world from where the name originates undertaker bird.
  • This huge bird can fly gracefully (high up to 13,000 feet), thanks to those hollow leg and toe bones.
  • They literally eat anything that they can swallow.

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Get to know me

Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd / Colony

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No