Tuesday, June 24, 2014


The secretarybird is a bird that I remember seeing pictures of in my youth and thinking that I would love to see one someday. While driving in Buffalo Springs NR in northern Kenya, I saw one fly by, wings outstretched and feet back behind it, and I knew it was a secretarybird instantly. I asked our driver to go in its direction to see if we could find it, but to no avail.
Flying secretarybird. Picture from Wikipedia. On this one, the tail feathers are not longer than the back-stretched legs.
Sometime later that morning, we came across one walking through the bushes and watched it for several minutes. It was a thrill. One of our other groups saw one grab a small rabbit and swallow it whole. 
The secretarybird behaves a lot like our roadrunner, except does not appear to be as fast. Very fun to watch. 
One of the very neat aspects of the secretarybird is the long feathers on the back of the neck, especially when they are popped out for display. Photo from Michael Lewin.
In addition to the feathers, the red and yellow face and bill really stand out. Photo from Michael Lewin.
I love the intermingling of tan feathers among the gray feathers. It almost looks like it took a dust bath. Photo from Michael Lewin. 
The secretarybird is found in most of Sub-Saharan Africa and has an eagle-like body and head with a hooked bill and crane-like legs.
What is not to love about this bird? Photo from Michael Lewin.
Imagine how terrifying this sight has to be to a small rodent? Photo from Michael Lewin.
In flight, it has two elongated feathers that extend beyond its feet and it resembles a crane.
Flying secretarybird from Wikipedia. This one does have a tail that extends beyond its legs.
The flight feathers and thighs are black, while most of the other feathers are gray.
Photo by Esmee Tooke.
Unlike other birds of prey, it hunts mostly on foot, stomping on clumps of vegetation or waiting near fires to eat animals trying to escape. They will strike prey with their bill or stamp on the prey to stun it and then usually eat it whole although they can tear prey apart with their feet.
This rabbit was captured and swallowed whole.
This bird just wreaks coolness.
Their kicks are powerful enough to shatter a human hand with one kick and there have been reports of them killing humans. 

The secretarybird is featured on the coat of arms of Sudan and South Africa. Note that the coat of arms both emphasis the popped out back-neck feathers.
Sudan coat of arms from Wikipedia.
South Africa coat of arms from Wikipedia.


  1. "Secretary" definitely doesn't refer to some hard-working person in a cubicle. No, it's more of a self-absorbed, high-and-mighty politician, perhaps a Secretary of State.

  2. He is spectacularly goofy! Luck you to get to see him.