The Secretary Bird Is So Gorgeous, It Could Easily Become A Character In A Pixar

The secretary (Sagittarius Serpentarius) is a large African bird related to hawks and eagles. It got this name because of its quill-like crests on the back of its head that resemble 18th-century clerks with pens tucked into their wigs. This predatory bird has another distinctive feature. Eyelashes. Long, prominent eyelashes that makeup models would kill for.

Brian Connolly has been working in nature photography for 10 years. Despite his experience, the secretary bird has still found ways of impressing him. “From what I’ve seen, the secretary bird is truly unique,” he told Bored Panda. “These exotic birds hunt snakes on the ground by stomping them with their dinosaur-looking legs and talons.”


And that’s completely true. Secretary birds are diurnal carnivorous raptors who feed upon a variety of prey, and their ability to kill snakes on the African grasslands is well documented. Unlike most birds of prey, the secretary bird is largely terrestrial which means it hunts its prey on foot. These beautiful birds may travel over 18 miles (30 km) a day in search of snakes, insects, and other animals.

And even though they feed upon snakes such as Adders and even Cobras, secretary birds will also consume lizards, amphibians, rodents, and bird eggs. Small animals are usually eaten whole while larger prey is stamped to death before being consumed. The secretary bird also stamps on the ground with its big stout-toed feet to flush prey out of hiding.

“The challenges of photographing secretary birds are similar of any wildlife photographer,” Connolly said. “They move quickly and getting them sharp and in focus is always a challenge.” The secretary bird looks more like a friendly stork than a bird of prey. These tall birds can measure around 4.5 feet (1.35 m) in height, weigh 7.3 pounds (3.3 kg), and have a wingspan of over 6.5 feet (2 m). The secretary bird has a relatively small head and a hooked beak. The plumage tends to be a light-bluish grey, and its face is red. Flight feathers are black, and they have black feathers on their thighs and the back of their heads. Their legs are long and powerful, and as mentioned before, are used for dealing with prey. They don’t have grasping toes like other birds of prey. Instead, their toes are thick and blunt with short curved talons on the ends.


These majestic creatures prefer open grasslands, steppe, and tree-dotted savannas. They live in areas where the grass is fairly short so that they can hunt easier. Secretary birds build large nests in Acacia trees or thorn trees made from long, flat twigs and grass and can measure 8 feet wide and 1 foot deep. It’s pretty common for their nests to grow larger year by year. They return to their nests just before dark to roost overnight after hunting. These birds avoid forests, and dense shrubberies as these areas restrict their movement.


Courtship includes a mutual display of chasing each other with wings spread up and backward, similar to how they act when chasing ground prey. Mating takes place either on the ground or in their large nests high up in Acacia trees. The female lays 2 – 3 oval eggs over 2 – 3 days. The female incubates the rough textured eggs for another 45 – 50 days.

The young start flapping their wings when they’re 60 days old, developing wing feathers around 80 days old. Although they still remain in the nest for most of the time, they already go on expeditions with their parents who teach them hunting.


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