Mike Unwin
United Kingdom GB
Apr 23, 2014 April 23, 2014

Mike is an award winning wildlife writer, editor of Travel Zambia magazine and author of the Bradt Guide to Southern African Wildlife.

Categories: African Wildlife, Birds

Secretary bird (Sagitarius serpentarius)

This is one of Africa’s weirdest birds. It struts about the savannah with the head of an eagle and the legs of a stork. In reality, it is a bird of prey – with a family all to itself. The Secretary bird possesses a snake-killing prowess that is the stuff of legend.

5 Fascinating Facts

Here are a few interesting tidbits about the African Secretary bird:

  1. The secretary bird appears on the coat-of-arms of two nations: Sudan and South Africa.
  2. Snakes form only a small part of the secretary bird’s diet, which also includes insects, small mammals, birds’ eggs, crabs and other reptiles.
  3. Secretary birds use the thickened soles of their feet to stamp on their prey, stunning it and then swallowing it whole.
  4. Studies of the secretary bird’s feeding technique helped scientists to shed light on the hunting strategies of the prehistoric ‘terror birds’. These were giant flightless predators that roamed the planet over 3 million years ago.
  5. There are different theories about the origins of the secretary bird’s name. One holds that the feathers behind the bird’s head reminded 19th-century Europeans of the quill pens that secretaries tucked behind their ears. It is more likely, however, that the name derives from the Arabic saqr-et-tair or ‘hunter bird’.

Weird and wonderful

Like so many creatures who call Africa their home, the Secretary bird is unique. However, it's one thing to see it in a photograph, but quite another to see it in its own habitat. And while we're on the subject of photographs, visit us on Pinterest  and enjoy some of the stunning photography. Hopefully, you will be inspired to "take a walk on the wild side." And if you do decide that you want to  explore the magnificent African landscape and exotic wildlife, just contact us at SafariBookings.