Marabou storks are hard to miss, no matter if you spot this huge bird in the wild or in a zoo. Often considered to be one of the ugliest animals on the planet, marabou storks are one of the most fascinating birds beneath its homely exterior. Read on to find out more about this remarkable bird.
The marabou stork is a large, long-legged wading bird that has an extremely large range and can be found throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Marabou storks have bald heads and dark grey colored wings. They have featherless necks with pink coloration that is also present on the face.
Marabou storks have a number of black spots on the forehead and the base of the bill. These massive birds can reach a height of 60 inches (152 cm) and a weight of 20 pounds (9 kilograms). They inhabit open dry savannas, swamps, grasslands, lake shores, riverbanks, and receding pools. The marabou stork mainly feeds on carrion and scraps.
How Big is a Marabou Stork?
The marabou stork is a huge bird, standing at a height of 45.3 – 60 inches and weighing in at approximately 9.9 – 20 pounds. It has a wingspan of 7.2 – 11 feet, which is among the largest of any bird that is alive today.
Female marabou storks are smaller than their male counterparts, but other than that, they look exactly the same – each have a large bill, a neck ruff, and a pink gular sac near the throat. Their bill measures 10 – 13.8 inches (26 – 35 cm). When inflated, the pink gular sac may have a diameter 14 – 18 inches (35.56 – 45.72 cm).
Marabou Storks Lifespan
The lifespan of a marabou stork varies depending on whether it’s living in captivity or in the wild. In the wild, it’s average lifespan is 25 years, and in captivity, it can survive for up to 41 years. Marabou storks tend to live longer in captivity because they have protection against predators, disease, and the elements.
Are Marabou Storks Dangerous?
Due to their size and appearance, marabou storks may seem dangerous to some. However, they are not known to attack humans and can live peacefully alongside them. That said, it’s worth noting that due to their large size, they often prey on some fairly large animals, including small mammals, birds, and reptiles.
Are Marabou Storks Herbivores?
Marabou storks are not herbivores. They are carnivores, preferring to feast on the carcasses and scraps of dead animals.
How High Can a Marabou Stork Fly?
Marabou storks have been known to reach heights up to 13,000 feet, but they don’t always fly that high. They mostly take to the air with the intention to scavenge, so they mostly stay close to the ground to look for food.
Do Marabou Storks Migrate?
Marabou storks generally don’t migrate south for the winter, but they might embark on migratory journeys in search of better hunting or nesting grounds. When this happens, they can form groups of 1,000 or more. In most cases, all of the marabou storks in a region will collectively fly to greener pastures.
What Does a Marabou Stork Eat?
The marabou stork is a meat lover that mainly eats carrion and scraps. This opportunistic feeder will eat almost any animal that it can swallow – it occasionally eats other birds including doves, pigeons, Quelea nestlings, pelican chicks, and even flamingos.
During the breeding season, marabou storks scale back on carrion and mostly feed on small live prey such as fish, insects, frogs, small mammals, and reptiles such as lizards and snakes.
Due to the ever-increasing creation of dumps, marabou storks have become dependent on human garbage and can often be found around dumps scavenging for anything and everything from metal industrial parts to shoes.
Where Does the Marabou Stork Nest?
To keep their eggs safe, marabou storks prefer to nest about 10 to 30 meters in trees, as well as on high cliffs. They also often build nests on buildings in towns. Both males and female marabou storks participate in the nest-building, and they’ll use branches, twigs, and sticks to construct them. Their nests are about 1 meter wide.
Both male and females help to incubate the eggs until they hatch. Marabou storks lay about 3 to 4 eggs at a time that take about a month to hatch. Both sexes will also tend to and feed their chicks.
Where Does the Marabou Stork Live?
Native to Sub-Saharan Africa, the marabou stork can be found in the wilds of Uganda, Eritrea, Senegal, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Africa, Namibia, and Kenya. It can most often be spotted in semi-arid savannas and grasslands or near wetlands, as well as lake shores, swamps, riverbanks, and receding pools to a lesser extent. The marabou can also be found near garbage dumps and fishing villages.
How Do Marabou Storks Eat?
Marabou storks often gather around carcasses with hyenas and vultures. They will stand off to the side and run in to grab bites in between the vultures. They will also snatch up and devour the scraps which the other scavengers have dropped or left behind.
Even though the marabou stork has a large bill, it is not made for cutting up meat. Instead, it is used to pull the meat off a carcass while the marabou sticks its head deep inside the carcass. Marabou storks are prolific eaters, known to swallow up to 2.2 pounds of meat with a single bite.
Why Do Marabou Storks Have Neck Sacks?
Marabou storks have a long, reddish pouch hanging from their necks. This inflatable pouch is usually used in courtship rituals and is especially conspicuous during the breeding season. The males will puff them up when trying to attract a female. The pouch is directly connected to the left nostril and acts as a resonator. This allows the marabou stork to produce a guttural croaking. While they’re usually silent birds, they will also emit a sound caused by beak clacking if they feel threatened.
Why Do Marabou Storks Have White Legs?
The marabou stork has white legs because it poops on them as a way to keep cool. The act of purposefully squirting excrement on their own legs is a scientific process known as urohidrosis, and it’s practiced by storks, vultures, and a couple of other birds.
What Kind of Relationship Does a Marabou Stork and Bee Have?
The marabou stork and bee relationship is known as commensalism. In nature, commensalism is the result of one organism benefiting and another organism neither being benefited or harmed as a result of the relationship. The marabou stork thrive on carcasses, and bees use whatever is left behind of the carcass as food and shelter to lay their eggs