Marabou Stork (Leptoptilos crumeniferus)
aka Marabou

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.

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.

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.

Photographed in Kenya's Olare Orok Conservancy and Nairobi National Park.

Categories & Keywords
Subcategory Detail:
Keywords:bird, kenya, marabou, marabou stork, stork, wildlife

Marabou Stork ~ Wings Raised

Marabou Stork, soaking wet, with wings out to dry them.

Marabou Storks ~ Eating Fish

Three Marabou Storks, showing the stages of catching and eating fish.

Marabou Stork ~ Long Toes

Marabou Stork, walking across grass, showing its hollow legs, feet and extra-long partly-webbed toes.

Marabou Stork ~ Head Portrait

Life-size head and shoulders portrait of Marabou Stork.

Marabou Stork ~ Immature, Portrait

Head portrait of Immature Marabou Stork, showing whispy head feathers.

Marabou Storks ~ Flying

Two Marabou Storks flying, legs trailing, necks in an 'S' shape and flapping wings.

Marabou Stork ~ Gliding

A Marabou Stork, gliding on warm thermals, its nine foot plus wingspan allowing it to effortlessly soar.

Maribou Storks ~ Comical

A male Maribou Stork, with breeding plumage, and an old can of drink on its lower mandilble.  A comical photograph.  Happily, the can dropped off, moments later.

Marabou Stork ~ Capturing Fish

Marabou Stork, catching fish from a dam in Kenya.

Marabou Stork ~ At Rest

Marabou Stork resting, standing one one leg, the foot of the other grasping its knee.

Marabou Stork ~ Throwing Fish

Marabou Stork, tossing a small fish into the air, before catching and swallowing it.

Marabou Stork ~ Catching Dinner

Marabou Stork, plunging its bill into water, to catch fish.

Marabou Stork ~ Perched

Marabou Stork, perched on top of a dead tree, with gular sac fully extended.

Marabou Storks ~ At Carcass

Marabou Storks and Vultures at Buffalo carcus.