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.
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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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