Sagittariidae – Secretarybird

A long-legged bird with a stunning black feather crest on its back head

Secretarybirds are commonly referred to as “raptors” of Sub-Saharan Africa’s savannas, grasslands, and shrublands.

The secretarybird stands out with its tall, crane-like legs and raptor features. It can reach up to 1.3 meters (4 feet) in height, with a wingspan of over 2 meters (6.6 feet). Its body plumage is predominantly grey, accented with black flight feathers and long, black-tipped tail feathers that add to its dramatic appearance. The secretarybird’s face is unfeathered, revealing skin that can range in color from yellow to deep orange or red, often becoming more vibrant during the breeding season.

Secretarybirds are known for their terrestrial lifestyle, spending most of their time on the ground. Their long legs are not just for show; they are powerful tools used to stalk and hunt prey. Unlike other raptors that rely on flight to hunt, secretarybirds use their strong legs to kick and stomp on snakes, their preferred prey, with astonishing speed and force. They also consume other small animals, including insects, mammals, and birds.

These birds are skilled hunters, often working in pairs or small family groups to flush out prey. Their hunting method is efficient, allowing them to cover vast distances in search of food.

The mating rituals of secretarybirds are unique and can be quite a spectacle. They involve elaborate displays both on the ground and in the air, including a high-flying dance where the birds soar to great heights before plummeting down in a show of aerial acrobatics.

Secretarybirds build large nests out of sticks, which they situate on top of acacia trees or other tall shrubs. Both parents participate in nest construction, incubation of the eggs, and rearing of the chicks.