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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

Amaze-wing Facts About The Shoebill For Kids

Shoebill facts about the whale headed stork

The shoebill Balaeniceps rex is one of the most dangerous birds in the world. However, only a few of the kind are left. The birds are large and are also known as whale head stork due to a very big bill which makes them distinct from any other bird of their category. They are found largely in the marshes and freshwater swamps of East Africa including South Sudan and Uganda among others. The average height for a shoebill stork ranges between 3.3-4.6 ft while the wings can extend up to 7.64 ft. The weight of the shoebill stork ranges between 9-16 lb. They are regarded as ferocious predators and can prey on small crocodiles, lungfish, and monitor lizards as well. They use the sharp edges of their bill to decapitate the prey. The shoebill stork is an extremely silent creature which makes it a deadly predator for small animals and reptiles.

The shoebill stork usually prepares its nest in floating vegetation and solid mounds. It uses the ambush technique for hunting its prey wherein the reinforced beak is thrusted with a great speed to capture the prey. The reinforced skull and beak act as shock absorbers during these thrusts. After reading the interesting information on this scary bird, you would also want to enjoy our articles on secretary bird and scarlet macaw.

Shoebill Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a shoebill?

Shoebill is a type of bird. It is a very large bird resembling a stork that is why it is sometimes also refered to as a shoebill stork. Shoebill Balaeniceps rex is also related to pelicans and herons based on their DNA. The bird is found near swamps and marshlands in African nations like Sudan, Uganda, and Zambia.

What class of animal does a shoebill belong to?

Shoebills belong to the aves class which means that it is a bird. Aves are known to have distinct feathers and wings that help them fly. In addition to this, this class is known to lay eggs to give birth to young shoebills rather than giving birth to young ones.

How many shoebills are there in the world?

Shoebills are an extremely vulnerable species as of now and are Critically Endangered. This is also why there are not many organisms of this species left in the world. There are about only 5000 to 8000 shoebills left in the world. This is an alarming number especially for the survival of the species else it will become extinct.

Where does a shoebill live?

A shoebill lives in marshlands and freshwater swamps, and other such terrains. Staying here gives them access to water, which is required since they are a water bird species. In addition to this, it can also access the land around them with its swindle legs and feet. This can be done when they want to hunt fish or other small animals. Floating vegetation forms as one of the great spots for such birds to live.

What is a shoebills habitat?

These whale headed stork birds are found in marshes of East Africa including South Sudan, Zambia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Botswana, Tanzania, among other such regions. This bird is largely found in areas of floating vegetation wherein they can find their prey and also find water around them. This is one of the best vegetations suited for shoebill birds to be found.

Who do shoebills live with?

Shoebills are not known to form or live in groups. They are solitary animals and travel and reside alone. However, when there is a time of breeding, females and male shoebill birds come together from the opposite territories to mate and produce young ones. In general, these birds are non-migratory and are not known to change places with changes in season.

How long does a shoebill live?

The lifespan of a shoebill bird is about 35 years. It is a relatively higher age as compared to animals and especially birds.

How do they reproduce?

Shoebills are solitary even when it comes to their breeding habits. This becomes a part of their solitary nature. Unlike animals like pelicans and herons, who have their nests in groups and very close to each other, these birds don’t have nests as close as a few kilometers away. During breeding seasons, the male and the female come together and build a nest for the young shoebill. The females produce about three eggs after one breeding season.

What is their conservation status?

The birds are critically endangered as only a few thousands of these are left of this species. This is also because of the loss in their habitat because of agricultural purposes. Since these birds are extremely rare, many people have also sold them for about $20,000 per bird. This has also been because of the tribal species around those areas. They have eaten or sold shoebill eggs as a part of the trade, which has caused the population of the birds to fall drastically and further, resulting in less growth of their population in the future.

Shoebill Fun facts

What do shoebills look like?

Shoebill storks are about 3.5-5 ft long. They have a blue-gray color with yellow eyes. They have a significant bill which is yellow-orange. Shoebills might remind you of dinosaurs owing to how they look, but they are not related to them. Shoebills have long, spindly legs, which facilitate their movement in the floating vegetation and even on land. So they can easily hunt and then move across places with their sturdy legs.

Shoebill stork nest on solid mounds or floating vegetation

How cute are they?

Shoebill storks are not very cute. They can look very intimidating and this is why many people fear them. Even though they have been very docile with humans and have known to only stare at them and not harm them unnecessarily, they can be very threatening to look at. Therefore they are not considered the cutest birds around. In fact, due to their large bill, shoebill storks can look like one of the most frightening birds.

How do they communicate?

Shoebill storks are one of the most silent birds and don’t make much noise. However, they do engage in bill clattering which involves the clattering or clapping of their bills with each other. This behavior is largely dominant during the breeding seasons. Bill clattering is used for nest greetings as well. In addition to this, they also make a silent hiccup-like sound whenever they are looking for food or when they’re calling for food.

How big is a shoebill?

Shoebill is about 0.5 times smaller as compared to an average human male. This is quite a large size for a bird to have.

How far can a shoebill fly?

It is very rare to have noticed a shoebill stork fly. They generally just use their legs to commute from one place to another. At maximum, the shoebill storks can only fly about 20m away. This can also owe to the fact that they are non-migratory birds.

How much does a shoebill weigh?

A shoebill stork weighs about 9-16 lb. This is a considerable weight considering the bird’s body structure and its big bill. It is also due to its weight that some people consider that shoebills can fly that much. But even after having this weight, they can fly with ease.

What are their male and female names of the species?

The male and female names of the species are not any different. They are just called male and female shoebill stork, respectively.

What would you call a baby shoebill?

A baby shoebill is just called a young shoebill or a baby shoebill itself. The shoebill storks don’t have a separate name that sets them apart.

What do they eat?

The shoebills are largely pescatarians and rely on fish like lungfish and catfish for their food. However, they can also feed on other animals like rodents, snails, snakes, or even baby crocodiles. This can be done because of their large bill. In addition to this, the shoebill storks can also eat monitor lizards or other such reptiles that might be found on the marshes of southern Sudan or other areas that they reside in. However, they are also killed very often. This can also be done by illegal poaching of humans or by crocodiles for food.

Are they loud?

Shoebills are one of the most silent birds and don’t make any noise at all. They communicate very little and don’t make significant noises to mark their arrival or presence. This can also help them to hunt their prey like a fish more easily as they can ambush in the surroundings without making much noise.

Would they make a good pet?

There are many factors as to why shoebill storks would not make a great pet. First, it is banned in many countries to own a shoebill stork. This is largely because of their critically endangered status due to very few birds of the population being left. Also, these birds can be dangerous and are one of the most dangerous birds in the world, even when they’ve been docile with humans. In addition to this, shoebill storks need to remain in their habitat beyond which it gets difficult for them to survive.

Did you know...

Shoebills have one of the largest bills in the world and are only the third-largest bird with the biggest bill. This also helps us to understand how it is capable of hunting even baby crocodiles for food. Also, the sharp edges of its beak are razor-like and can tear through even the hardest of skins. This helps them to decapitate their prey very easily.

Which bird is a shoebill most closely related to?

Even though shoebills are very similar to storks, they are genetically the most related to pelicans and herons. This test was done essentially when the shoebill stork was first transported out of Arica. Even when people thought it resembles stork, it is not as related to it. However, unlike pelicans, whom shoebill storks are related to, shoebills are largely solitary birds and don’t engage in groups.

Why do shoebills shake their head?

When the shoebill storks also eat some algae or other unwanted matter while hunting their food, they shake their head to remove such material. By shaking their head, they can throw out or expel any algae or unwanted weeds out of their bill. This is one of the most used practices by shoebill stork to ensure that it is only eating its food which includes the likes of a baby crocodile, lungfish, and other such fish, rodents, snakes and snails.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including frigate bird, or chinstrap penguin.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our bird coloring pages.

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