Fun Saddle-billed Stork Facts For Kids

Arpitha Rajendra
Feb 29, 2024 By Arpitha Rajendra
Originally Published on Aug 06, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Fact-checked by Sonali Rawat
Interesting saddle-billed stork facts on Kidadl including habitat and appearance.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.4 Min

The Saddle-billed stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis), also known as saddlebill, is a large wading bird of the family Ciconiidae. There are six genera of extant storks, and Ephippiorhynchus is a small genus of stock birds. The word 'stork' derives from the proto-Germanic sturkaz. The New Shorter Oxford dictionary suggests that the Germanic root of this word is probably related to stark, due to the rigid it stuff posture of a European species. The genus name Ephippiorhynchus is a derivation of two ancient Greek words, 'ephippis' meaning, 'a saddle,' and 'rhynchus', meaning, 'bill' referring to the frontal shield that saddles on the bill of the saddle-billed stork. The only other species of genus Ephippiorhynchus is the closely related, black-necked stork. These two members are called 'jabirus.'  Both bird species have black and white colors, white body, and primary flight feathers. A late Miocene fossil found in Pakistan, Ephippiorhynchus pakistanensis, is described as the prehistoric relative of these birds. This species of large wading bird species breed in wetlands and marshes.

Read on to discover more. If these facts about the saddle-billed stork are interesting, check out our green heron and brant facts too.


Saddle-Billed Stork Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a saddle-billed stork?

The Saddle-billed stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis) is a large wadding bird and the tallest stork of the order Ciconiiformes and phylum Chordata. They walk slowly in shallow waters hunting as large herons. They search for food by stabbing their bill into the water surface and catching the prey after contact. They swallow a whole fish head first and then drink water. These birds are silent creatures except for bill-clattering near the nest.

What class of animal does a saddle-billed stork belong to?

The Saddle-billed stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis) is of the class Aves of animals.

How many saddle-billed storks are there in the world?

A study done by southern Kruger National Park states that there are at least 40 adult saddle-billed storks (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis). However, due to the isolated population of these species, the exact number around the world is not calculated.

Where does a saddle-billed stork live?

The Saddle-billed stork's (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis) habitat range is in South Africa, Sub-saharan Africa, and West Africa. They occupy tropical Africa that covers a range from Senegal to Ethiopia in the south and east to northern South Africa. They also occupy a wide range of habitats in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, the Kruger National Park, and the Augrabies Falls National Park in South Africa.

What is a saddle-billed stork's habitat?

The habitat range of the saddle-billed stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis) is vast open spaces, wetlands, lakeshores, swamps, flood plains, and water bodies. They prefer protected habitats with open water. They also prefer tropical African regions.

Who do saddle-billed storks live with?

These storks form pairs and groups with 10-12 birds. These birds nest alone. They form a pair for a lifetime.

How long does a saddle-billed stork live?

This bird species life spans up to 36 years.

How do they reproduce?

The breeding season starts in the dry or end of the rainy season. They nest alone on top of trees near water bodies. The pair chooses trees that are often isolated from any disturbances. They are known to breed in the same nest every year. The male performs a bill-clattering display to attract the female. This display also involves raising and lowering the head with vocalization. This makes the bond between the male and the female last longer. The saddle-billed stork attains maturity at the age of three years or more. Both adults build the nest. It is made of sticks, reeds, mud, and sedges. The females lay around two to three eggs. The incubation period of these eggs is 30-35 days. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs for these 35 days. Chicks hatch out of the eggs covered in white. The parents feed them until they leave. The chicks leave the nest around 70-100 days, and other reports show that the chicks leave in around 58-100 days. This bird species does not normally breed every year as the chicks remain with them until the next breeding season.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of this bird is Least Concern. In South Africa, they are considered endangered. The reason behind this is the degradation or destruction of the wetlands where they thrive.

Saddle-Billed Stork Fun Facts

What do saddle-billed storks look like?

These storks of the family Ciconiidae have a red and black beak with a yellow shield. The adult male's plumage is black and white. They have a white mantle and a black lower back or rump. The wings and tail of these storks are black with iridescent green. They have white underparts, belly, breast, under tail coverts, and vent. They have black coverts on top of the underwing. The leading edges and primary flight feathers of the wings are white. They have black necks and heads. They have a huge red curved bill that has a yellow frontal shield and a large black band. At the lower base of the bill, these birds have two small yellow wattles. The feet and legs are brown with pick knees, and the eyes are dark brown.

Females are smaller than males. The plumage is of the same color as yellow eyes. Female storks do not have the two small wattles at the base of her bill. The chicks are usually dull gray and are similar to adults.

The tropical saddle-billed stork genus has only two species.

How cute are they?

They have colorful bills with a yellow shield and a black band. So, these tall storks are considered to be beautiful.

How do they communicate?

This species is mostly silent. They communicate through vocalization and bill-clattering during mating.

How big is a saddle-billed stork?

The saddle-billed stork is 57-59 in (145-150 cm) tall, and this breed is the tallest stork.  The wingspan of these storks is 94.4-106 in (240-270 cm).

How fast can a saddle-billed stork fly?

The exact speed flight of these species is unknown. Due to their wingspan, they take off easily. They hold their legs, neck, and head slightly lower than their body during flight.

How much does a saddle-billed stork weigh?

The weight of these storks is 11-16.5 lb (5-7.5 g). The weight of a male saddle-billed stork is more than the female.

What are the male and female names of the species?

There is no specific name given to the female and male saddle-billed stork.  

What would you call a baby saddle-billed stork?

There is no specific name given to the baby saddle-billed stork. The babies are usually referred to saddle-billed stork chicks.

What do they eat?

The saddle-billed stork diet includes fish, amphibians, snakes, frogs, small mammals, and small birds. Their diet also includes crabs, large water beetles, and crustaceans.

Are they poisonous?

No, they are not poisonous.

Would they make a good pet?

No, this African saddle-billed stork would not make a good pet. These African storks prefer open wetlands.

Did you know...

The stork is a real bird and the largest species of the stork is the marabou stork, which is also ranked to have the largest wingspread of any other living bird.

Their height and long legs help them look out for predators, and they can easily escape.

These birds were first discovered in 1800 by Geoge Shaw. He was also the first naturalist to examine a platypus in 1799.

These birds are mute, technically. This is due to the lack of syrinx that allows birds to whistle and sing. The chick hiss instead of chirping due to this same reason.

These birds like being alone. They are rarely found in groups.

The storks represent the soul in Egypt. In Greek mythology, the goddess Hera cursed Antigone and Gerana, and they turned into storks.

Are saddle-billed storks endangered?

In South Africa, these creatures are considered endangered. The reason behind this is the degradation or destruction of the wetlands where they thrive. The population can now be found in protected areas.

How did saddle-billed storks get their name?

These species have a long red bill with a black band and a yellow frontal shield. This yellow shield resembles a saddle. So, they are called saddle-billed storks.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds from our pelican facts and Amazon parrot facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable saddle-billed stork coloring pages.

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Written by Arpitha Rajendra

Bachelor of Engineering specializing in Aeronautical/Aerospace Technology, Master of Business Administration specializing in Management

Arpitha Rajendra picture

Arpitha RajendraBachelor of Engineering specializing in Aeronautical/Aerospace Technology, Master of Business Administration specializing in Management

With a background in Aeronautical Engineering and practical experience in various technical areas, Arpitha is a valuable member of the Kidadl content writing team. She did her Bachelor's degree in Engineering, specializing in Aeronautical Engineering, at Nitte Meenakshi Institute of Technology in 2020. Arpitha has honed her skills through her work with leading companies in Bangalore, where she contributed to several noteworthy projects, including the development of high-performance aircraft using morphing technology and the analysis of crack propagation using Abaqus XFEM.

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