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The mighty Big 6 birds of the Kruger – Saddle-billed Stork

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Saddle-billed stork
Saddle-billed stork
 (female)

The Saddle-billed stork is the tallest of the storks, although not the heaviest, standing at a height of 150 cm (59 in). These glorious storks have a pair of extremely long legs, black in colour. Their neck, head, back, wings and tail are a shimmering black while the rest of the body and the flight wings are pure white. They come equipped with a massive bill which is red with a large black stripe across and a yellow shield called a ‘’saddle’’. The youngsters are a browner grey colour.


The sexes of the saddle-billed stork can easily be told apart, females have yellow irises while males have black irises and drooping yellow wattles.

Sadly these magnificent storks are endangered in South Africa and it is still not known exactly why their numbers are dwindling.
Habitat

They live throughout parts of sub-Saharan African from Sudan though Ethiopia to South Africa including several Western African countries. In the rainbow nation of South Africa, Saddle-billed storks make home in the north-eastern parts of the country along the waters of the Kruger National Park.
Saddle-billed stork
Saddle-billed stork in flight. 

Behaviour


They are usually silent birds except for what is known as bill-chattering during breeding season.

These storks fly the skies with their neck outstretched, and their heavy bill plunging at belly height.
Diet

They feed mostly on small animals such as fish, frogs and crabs as well as small birds and reptiles. Saddle-billed storks search for a meal by travelling over water sources and using their sharp beaks to attack their prey.
Reproduction

A pair of Saddle-billed storks start a monogamous companionship for life. Both the male and the female work together to build a large nest, made out of sticks, in the top branch of a tree on the water’s edge of wetlands. The female stork will lay one or two white eggs weighing 146 grams each.

The eggs take 30 to 35 days to hatch after which both parents take feeding duties of the chicks. The young birds flee the nest after another 70 to 100 days for a life of their own.
Did you know?
These birds do not migrate being very territorial and staying in the same area for years.

Saddle-billed stork
Female with yellow irises and male with black irises.


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