Marabou Stork (Leptoptilos crumeniferus
aka Marabou Appearance
Marabou Storks are massive, 60" (152cm) birds, with glossy, dark blue-green upperparts and white underparts. It has a naked pink head and neck with an inflatable pink 'gular sac' (pendant-shaped throat pouch) that can grow to 18" (46cm) when fully inflated. A further, smaller red one on the back of its neck. A white ruff rings the neck. Its large bill is grey or pinkish. Eyes are brown. Its black legs are usually white from the bird's excrement. Both legs and toes are hollow, assisting the bird, weight-wise, when flying.
Immature birds are more brown, with whispy feathers on the head. They do not begin to mature until their second year, when flight feathers take on a more glossy black colour.
When displaying breeding plumage, its bare skin is brighter and the air sac and head turning more red. It develops a pale blue nape and black forehead with lines of black worts from ears to the back of the head. Courting birds develop a whinnying, endless call "wuwuwuwuwu
Marabou Storks are gregarious birds, often seen in large groups. At rest for long periods, they are often seen standing very still, in a kneeling position (on the tarsi), or occasionally standing on one leg, with the second gripping the knee of the first. During warmer hours, they soar and glide on thermals, their long legs trailing behind them.
Marabou Storks use bill-chattering and gutteral noises made from the gular sac during courtship. They nest in trees, building a nest of sticks with a shallow cup. Two or three eggs are laid, incubated by both parents for 30 days. The chicks remain in the nest for approximately 3 months, maybe not fledging until the fourth month. Diet
Marabou Storks are primarily a scavenger of predator kills, human rubbish, fish or dead Flamingos. Sometimes, they will catch small fish, reptiles or mammals, especially when raising their young, because chicks can't digest rotting carrion. Because the head is mostly featherless, it can get its head deep into carcusses, without getting soaked in blood. It often follows Vultures
to the site of a dead animal, then wait until the more aggresive carrion-eaters tear up the carcus, before chasing them off and exploiting the situation. Often seen wading in shallow water, catching fish in their strong bills, draining the water, then swallowing whole. In short, Marabou will eat just about anything. Resident
Marabou Storks are often found near rubbish dumps, predator kills, dead birds or animals and lake shores. Large flocks occur along the Mara River during the Wildebeest migration. Seen all over Kenya, wherever there is water. Extra Marabou Stork Facts
Marabou Storks often open their wings over water, attracting fish - or over a carcus, to hide it from other scavengers and are therefore known as the Undertaker Bird - looking like it is measuring the carcus for a coffin..!
Unlike other Storks
, they fly with their necks folded, like Herons
Large Marabou Storks can have a wingspan of 10 feet (3.5 metres), making this species equal with the Andean Condor (South America) in having the largest wingspan of all land birds. Photographs
Photographed in Kenya's Olare Orok Conservancy and Nairobi National Park.