Bird Families

Secretary Bird - Feathered Nomad


Open meadows and savannas are preferred for the secretary bird, although they are also found in semi-deserts and areas with thin forest cover at an altitude of no more than 3,000 above sea level. The bird prefers areas where the grass does not exceed a meter in height, which provides it with a good view of the terrain. In a real desert, as well as in dense forests, you will not find a secretary bird.

An adult grows in height from 0.9 to 1.2 meters, while having a weight in the range from 2.3 to 4.2 kg. The wingspan varies from 1.2 to 1.35 meters, females are slightly smaller in size than males.

Secretary bird, it is easy to see in the video above, it has a rather unusual appearance for a representative of the falcon squad. It has a relatively small head, a gray-white beak, a long neck, and an eagle-like body. However, unlike other members of the order, the secretary has extremely long legs, ending in short toes with blunt claws. From the side it seems that the bird is standing on stilts.

Most of the feathers on the body of the secretary bird are gray, with the exception of the tail feathers and the upper part of the legs. There are also several black feathers on the back of the head, thanks to which the species got its name - in ancient times, court clerks liked to insert black goose feathers into their wigs. Below in the photo, the secretary's bird can be seen with loose feathers on the back of its head.

It is almost impossible to confuse this bird with another species, except that from a distance it can be mistaken for a paradise crane.

It is assumed that secretary birds form pairs for life. Reproduction is possible throughout the year, but it peaks between August and March. The mating season is rather stormy, the male takes care of the female both in the air and on the ground. Mating takes place usually on the ground, less often in trees.

Both individuals participate in the construction of the nest, which is usually located on the flat top of an acacia or other thorny tree. The secretary bird's nest itself has the shape of a platform with a diameter of 1.5 to 2.5 meters, made of twigs and lined with a thick layer of grass, wool, manure and other materials. The couple returns to the old nest every year for breeding, and they abandon it only when its mass becomes too large, and there is a possibility that the nest will fall to the ground.

The female usually lays 1-3 white pear-shaped eggs with red-brown stripes at intervals of 2-3 days. Incubation starts as soon as the first egg is laid. Most of the time, the female secretary incubates, the male at this time is engaged in obtaining food for her. After about 42-46 days, the first chick is born, followed by the second. If there were three eggs in the clutch, then the third chick dies of hunger, since it cannot compete with its older brothers.

Young secretary birds have disproportionately large heads in relation to the body. They grow slowly, after 6 weeks they stand on their own feet, and only at the age of two months they try to rise above the nest. After that, for another 2-3 months, the young remain under the care of their parents. Adults most often live in pairs, less often singly or in small groups. Occasionally, the secretary bird gathers in large groups near a watering hole or with a large accumulation of food, but such a flock disintegrates rather quickly.

The bird becomes active a couple of hours after sunrise, when the dew on the grass dries up. The secretary bird spends most of the time on the ground, walking 20-30 km per day on foot, although if necessary, it flies well. Basically, it leads a sedentary lifestyle in an area of ​​20 square kilometers, wandering only when there is a shortage of food.

The secretary bird should be classified as a predator with a very wide diet. Most of her diet consists of arthropods (grasshoppers, beetles, spiders, scorpions), and small mammals such as mice, rats, hedgehogs, hares, mongooses, and others). Also, on occasion, she eats chicks, eggs, amphibians, small turtles. By the way, secretaries do not eat snakes as often as it is commonly believed, although among some African peoples this bird is respected precisely because it eats poisonous snakes. The bird is even depicted on the coats of arms of South Africa and Sudan.

To search for prey, the predator combes open, grassy areas. If the grass is too thick, then, spreading his wings, the secretary slaps on it, forcing the victim to reveal himself. This is followed by a small chase, and if the victim is small, it is simply swallowed whole. If the prey is larger, such as a snake, legs and beak are used, with which the predator tries to stun it, and then kill it with many powerful blows.

Adult secretary birds have no natural enemies, which cannot be said about their chicks. Large open nests are often ravaged by crows and African eagle owls.

Read about other representatives of the animal world:

What does it look like?

The bird reaches 150 cm in length, while weighing up to 4 kg. Males are slightly larger than females, and this is the only difference between them. The huge wingspan (up to 210 cm) is impressive. The black feathers, which brought such fame to the bird, rise during mating. A small head, a light gray beak and an eagle-like body are all hallmarks of the secretary bird. The combination of light and dark shades of gray in the color of the animal adds importance and uniqueness to it. The closer to the tail, the darker the plumage becomes. The black framing of the wings adorns and enriches the bird.

Secretary bird (Latin Sagittarius serpentarius)

The secretary bird has long, thin legs with short toes. In appearance, the bird does not look like any representative of the birds. It can only be confused with the paradise crane, and even then you need to contrive!
Around the eyes and beak, the bird is decorated with a patch of skin of a bright orange color, on which there is no plumage. The long blunt claws are so hard that they allow the bird to attack and take advantage of the snakes.

Where does it live?

The homeland and only place of residence of these birds is Africa. They can be found from the Sahara to South Africa. In the vicinity of human activity, their populations are rare because humans rob their eggs. They fly well, but prefer to move on the ground.

What is eating?

The secretary is still a glutton! They will not give up amphibians, lizards and small birds. Even frogs and turtles serve as food for them. The most delicious dish for secretary birds is snakes. Fighting snakes is common for secretaries. When attacking, the bird spreads one wing, which serves as a shield.

The secretary bird has caught another snake.

The secretary ends the fight with a fatal blow to the spine. Dinner is served!

What kind of life does he lead?

These birds, unlike their feathered relatives, do not like to fly. Most often, secretaries floating in the air can only be seen during the mating season. Their way of life resembles a nomadic one: in search of food, birds move from one place to another. And only when mating do they return to the already built nest.

The secretary birds nest in the treetops.

Birds are very loyal, therefore, once they find their soul mate, they do not betray each other and remain together forever. During the mating season, they do not move beyond the field of vision of their partner and do not allow rivals to approach each other.

How does the secretary bird breed?

The breeding season is from August to March. During the mating season, the male tries to "seduce" the female with a beautiful flight and dance. The female lays up to three eggs. New chicks prepare to hatch after an average of 45 days. Newlyweds usually build nests together on the tops of acacias and other trees.The material for creating the egg storage is twigs and grass. The nest for offspring should be large and roomy, because the secretaries will lay their eggs there for the rest of their lives. On average, the diameter of such a nest reaches 150 cm. After hatching, the cubs spend up to 90 days in their home.

A secretary bird chick under the supervision of a parent.

Little secretaries have a disproportionate body. Only after 6 weeks are they able to take their first steps. For several months, babies are surrounded by the care of their parents, after which they become independent birds. Toddlers really want to fly and often fall out of the nest. If they are unable to return, the mother has to feed her baby on the ground.

Flight of the secretary bird.

They feed the cubs with semi-digested meat, and when they grow up, they love to eat whole pieces of meat. Many predators hunt secretary chicks, so while the father is looking for food for the female and children, the new mother protects and protects her children.

Secretary and man

The secretary bird is considered very important and noble. She is appreciated and revered in many countries. She is depicted on the emblems of South Africa and Sudan, as a symbol of the power and superiority of these nations over other peoples.

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