Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Secretary Bird

(Image Source)
Phylum : Chordata
Class : Aves
Order : Accipitriformes
Family : Sagittariidae
Genus : Sagittarius
Species : serpentarius

Height : 4ft (1.3m)
Wingspan : 6.9ft (2.1m)
Weight : 5-9lbs (2.3-4kg)

IUCN Status : Least Concern

Secretary Birds can be found in the grass plains of Africa, and they are the longest legged of all the raptors. They can indeed fly, but they prefer to stroll through the grass in search of prey. Secretary Birds and Caracas are the only terrestrial birds of prey.

What is the story behind the name? Back in the 19th century, male secretaries wore dark tail coats, short trousers, and carried quills behind their ears. The Secretary Bird mimics that visual with their feathered heads, tail, and dark legs. Their scientific name, Sagittarius sepentarius also has a story. It means "the archer of snakes" because these birds are so exceptional at hunting down both venomous and nonvenomous snake species.

(Image Source)
Aside from snakes, Secretary Birds feed on rodents, insects, birds, and other reptiles. They often hunt in pairs or small groups, stalking as far as 20 miles a day throughout their territory. Once food is found, they either strike with their beak, or stomp as it with their feet. They also sometimes use a technique that involves picking up the prey and hurling it into the air.

Secretary Birds mate for life, and often return to the same large treetop nest year after year. These nests can exceed 8t (2.4m) in diameter. Both parents feed and raise the chicks, teaching them to stalk and hunt. Juveniles fledge after 2-3 months, and will leave their parents not long after.

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