The saddle-billed stork is a docile bird that inhabit many sub-Saharan African countries They are remarkable not only for their remarkable height, but also for their bright red beaks. It is uncommon to spot saddle-billed storks in big flocks, but are often found in pairs.
Saddle-billed storks are the tallest storks on the African continent. These striking birds stand around 1.7m tall, with an impressive wingspans of around 3m. Their red bills features a thick black belt with a bright yellow lappet or “saddle” on the upper portions of the bill. Their overall coloration is black and white. in both male and female. Gender can be identified by the colour of the eye and body size. Females have yellow eyes and are usually smaller with males have black eyes.
Saddle-billed storks are non migratory birds that prefer open grasslands and are often found near wetlands. They usually roost not far from perennial water sources. Favourite nesting spots includes swamps and edges of lakes and rivers.
They hunt by stealthily wading in still waters and use their long, sharp bills to attack prey species. Apart from fish, saddle-billed storks also regularly prey on tiny mammals, birds, bugs, reptiles, amphibians, shrimp and crabs.
Saddle-billed storks are quiet creatures, with vocal boxes that are entirely free of muscles. To make up for this lack of vocalization, these skilled flying birds send messages by clattering their beaks instead.
Saddle-billed storks build large, deep stick nests in trees. During reproduction, female saddle-billed storks generally lay two to three eggs, which take just over a month to hatch. Male and females of the species are monogamous, and work as teams to set up nests and incubate the eggs. Both the male and female parents are responsible for feeding duties of the chicks. At just over 3 months, chicks leave the nest and fend for themselves.
Saddle-billed storks are classified as endangered in South Africa with only as few as 30 breeding pairs in the greater Kruger area. They form part of the Big 6 Birds which also includes the Kori Bustard, Martial Eagle, Lappetfaced Vulture, Pel’s Fishing Owl and Southern Ground Hornbill.