|SECRETARY BIRD (Sagittarius serpentarius)
This large bird grows up to 4 feet long (1.2 m), three feet high (1 m) and has a 7 foot (2 m) wingspan. Unlike most other large birds of prey, the Secretary Bird catches its dinner on the ground. Snakes are its preferred food source, but it will also hunt and kill rodents, lizards and large insects. With its thickly scaled feet and long legs as protection, the bird will stomp on its prey until it stops moving, then lean over and peck at it with its bill. It uses its large wings as a shield in case the snake wants to rear up and bite it. If stomping isn’t enough, the bird will fly up and drop its victim, hoping it will die on impact.
The Secretary Bird makes its large stick nest in thorny trees like Acacias. It will add to the nest over the years, resulting in a large structure. Its habitat is grasslands or other open areas of Africa, south of the Sahara Desert. Secretary birds mate faithfully for life, producing 2 or 3 eggs at a time. Both parents protect and raise the young until they fly at about 8 weeks old.
Secretary birds walk up to 24 km a day in search of food, stomping the ground as they go to flush out small animals. They are also excellent flyers, but don’t hunt from the air. They are most vulnerable when young, falling prey to larger birds, but don’t have many enemies once they are fully grown. They are not currently listed as endangered in any way.
Office administrators (secretaries) once carried quill pens tucked behind their ears – in much the same style as the Secretary Bird holds its long black head feathers (all 22 of them). Its tail feathers are also fancy – containing a pair of long grey “streamers”. Bright orange eye patches help to create quite a costume for this leggy bird, who is often seen dancing for its dinner in the grasslands of Africa.