What is a Shoebill Stork?


Yes, it is a solitary loner that takes out its prey one at a time. Yes, it has a huge shoe-like beak that can kill a baby croc or take on a lungfish. And yes, his gaze is somewhat intense – think Paddington Bear meets Vinnie Jones.

It also doesn’t help that the bird is physically intimidating. This East African freshwater marsh specialist stands over a meter tall, has a wingspan of up to 75cm and its pointed, hoof-like beak can reach 24cm in length.

It’s also slow, determined and utterly relentless. Shoebills are stealthy predators. They can sit still for hours, before attacking, shaking, crushing and then swallowing their prey, and yet this pelican relative is so much more than an ugly caricature.

For one, he poops on his own paws. Not so scary now, huh? Known as urohidrosis, it is a disorderly but deliberate habit that helps the bird stay cool.

The stork has an average wingspan of over 2.5m © Getty images

The shoebill is also unconventional in the air, where it has one of the slowest flapping rates of any bird. It only takes 150 beats per minute to keep this impressive animal in the air.

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Requested by: Adam Jarrett, Ipswich

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