Friday, 14 July 2017

THE AFRICAN SECRETARY BIRD

Uganda birding safari, safari Uganda, birding tour in Uganda,
The secretary bird fighting with a snake
 The radiant and glowing beauty of a bird, belongs to the class of ‘AVES’ , it’s a member of in the order of Accipitriformes, many like kites, hawks, vultures and harriers belong here in also. On the contrary, the secretary bird belongs to a specific family known as the Sagittariide, it’s a big terrestrial bird of prey that survives and thrives in the open grasslands of the Savannah, the sub-Saharan section inclusive also. Actually, it can evidently be observed on either coat of arms of South Africa and Sudan. The Secretary bird is quite old and its origins can be traced back in the 17th century, 1779 saw John Frederick Miller as first European to  describe its existence, way of life, years later Johann Hermann a French naturalist assigned it to its own genus; Sagittarius. It’s important to note that the secretary bird is endemic to Africa.   

This eye catching bird borrows its name from the appearance of a secretary having tucked quill pens behind their ear as there is similar resemblance of the ‘act’, evidently observed by considering the Crest of long quill-like feathers on the back of its head. One finds it promptly recognizable, mimicking an eagle’s body, somewhat crane like legs that elevate its body to a height of 1.3m, a hooked bill like most birds of prey, having rounded wings spanning from 191-220cm. The total height yielding up to 112-152cm, a tail usually ranging a height between  57-85cm, it’s neck is not so long and so, you would expect it to stoop to reach the ground to pick prey or even water. Most secretary birds are endemic to sub-Saharan Africa and non-migratory, however they can follow food sources, these also exist on coastal plains and highlands but it’s significant to note that Secretary birds prefer grass lands and Savannah to forests and shrubby areas.
They feed on terrestrial prey and hunt for it on foot, with adults hunting in pairs and at times employ loose familial flocks, their prey consists of small mammals like mice and hares, small reptiles like lizards, snakes, tortoises and crabs. Sometimes infant birds, eggs and dead animals created by bush fire and other natural causes.
The exceedingly large herbivores are listed off the hunted but in some cases Secretary birds have been witnessed to kill young gazelles and surprising cheetah cubs too.   It preys on especially poisonous snakes; clear cases in point include cobras and Addas. Their predatory practice involves flushing out prey from tall grass by stomping on the surrounding vegetation and the other stealthily or shrewd tactic involves waiting close to wild fires, and eating anything trying to escape, prey is caught either by chasing and striking it with the bill and then swallowing it especially if it’s small or the bird can simply stamp it until stunned or killed by jumping on their back, especially for poisonous snakes. The young Secretary birds are fed on regurgitated or liquefied insects and activity is done directly by a female or male parent, they will later be weaned on smaller mammals and reptile fragments that are vomited on the nest.  

Secretary birds practice monogamy, and keep only a single partner for a life time. Courtship can be done through both a nuptial display and chasing each other with wings spread back and forth, they mate on ground; some prefer mating in the stunning balance of Acacia trees. The nodding truth is that Partners stay together even when their chicks have left.  They nest in Acacia trees at a height of about 5-7m, both partners make a pilot study to the nest site for period of six (6) months before the actual nest is established; we suspect that this activity aims at ensuring the safety of their chicks against potential threats. Lady Secretary Birds lay up to three (3) oval shaped-pale green eggs, the third egg is often unfertilized, and the gestation period is normally 45 days. Don’t dare miss to look out for these interesting birds, on your next birding safari in Uganda

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