The Marabou Stork, Leptoptilos crumeniferus, is a large wading bird in the stork family Ciconiidae. It breeds in Africa south of the Sahara, occurring in both wet and arid habitats, often near human habitation, especially waste tips. It is sometimes called the "undertaker bird," due to its shape from behind: cloak-like wings and back, skinny white legs, and sometimes, a large white mass of "hair."
A massive bird, large specimens are thought to reach a height of 150 cm (60 in), a weight of over 9 kg (20 lbs) and have a wingspan of at least 3.5 m (10.5 ft). In the last regard, it shares the distinction of having the largest wingspan of any landbird with the Andean Condor. More typically, these birds measure 120–140 cm (43–55 in), 310–350 cm (89–113 in) across the wings, and weigh 6–10.5 kg (10-18 lbs). Unlike most storks, the three Leptoptilos species fly with the neck retracted like a heron.
The Marabou is unmistakable due to its size, bare head and neck, black back, and white underparts. It has a huge bill, a pink gular sack at its throat, a neck ruff, and black legs and wings. The sexes are alike, but the young bird is browner and has a smaller bill. Full maturity is not reached for up to four years.
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Like most storks, the Marabou is gregarious and a colonial breeder. In the African dry season (when food is more readily available as the pools shrink) it builds a tree nest in which two or three eggs are laid.
It also resembles other storks in that it is not very vocal, but indulges in bill-rattling courtship displays. The throat sack is also used to make various noises at that time.
The Marabou Stork is a frequent scavenger, and the naked head and neck are adaptations to this, as it is with the vultures with which the stork often feeds. In both cases, a feathered head would become rapidly clotted with blood and other substances when the bird's head was inside a large corpse, and the bare head is easier to keep clean.
This large and powerful bird eats mainly carrion, scraps and faeces, but will also take fish, frogs, insects, eggs, small mammals and reptiles such as crocodile hatchlings and eggs. It occasionally eats other birds including quelea nestlings, pigeons, doves, pelican and cormorant chicks, and even flamingos.
A number of endoparasites have been identified in wild Marabous including Cheilospirura, Echinura and Acuaria nematodes, Amoebotaenia sphenoides (Cestoda) and Dicrocoelium hospes (Trematoda)..
In popular culture
- ^ Bwangamoi, O.; Dranzoa, C.; Ocaido, M.; Kamatei, G. S; (2003). "Gastro-intestinal helminths of Marabou stork (Leptoptilos crumeniferus).". African Journal of Ecology 41 (1): 111–113.
- ^ The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English 2008 (Oxford University Press, 2008)