restricted access Wetland storks and Hamerkop
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Saddle-billed Stork L:142 cm(56")|WS:240–270cm(94–106") This very large, tall, long-legged blackand -white stork has a unique and distinctive bill that is red, yellow and black . The male has dark-brown eyes and frequently a yellow wattle at the bill base, while the female has yellow eyes . In flight, the white belly and underwing pattern – white with a black central line – are diagnostic . The immature looks fluffy and is tan coloured with a dark bill and facial skin . It is a rare but very conspicuous resident bird in Kruger, preferring rivers and large undisturbed wetlands, where it forages for favourites such as catfish, but will also take frogs, birds and insects . Most of South Africa’s breeding population occurs in Kruger, which supports around 20–40 pairs, with several stable territories on the Letaba and Levuvu rivers . Large conservation areas such as Kruger are crucial for this species’ survival . However, pollution of, and removal of water (for industry and agriculture) from the Letaba, Olifants and Sabie river catchments outside Kruger is reducing the number of Saddle-billed Storks in the park . Wetland storks: 2 and Hamerkop EN One of the BIG 6 28 Hamerkop L: 56 cm (22") |WS: 90–94 cm (35–37") This dull brown, ibis-type bird has a black bill that is taller than it is wide, and a bushy-crested ‘hammerhead ’, creating an easily recognizable profile . In flight it has distinctive deep wingbeats, and it may occasionally soar very high like a bird of prey, but the long neck separates it from the raptors . Although the Hamerkop is related to storks and pelicans, it is so bizarre that it is placed in its own family . In Kruger it is a common and widespread resident, preferring slow-flowing rivers and dams, adjacent to which it builds its giant (1·5m | 5ft wide), roofed, stick nest . These nests are so well built that eagle-owls, Egyptian Geese, raptors and even genets often use them . Hamerkops indulge in unusual rituals, where up to 10 birds gather and run around, making a strange tinny vocalization and fluttering their wings . They have also been recorded ‘false mounting’ – pretending to mate . Much of this odd behaviour remains unexplained . BIRDS OF RIVERS AND WETLANDS The Hamerkop is a prominent species in tribal folklore: Zulus believe it to be a vain bird, ugly yet constantly admiring its reflection in the water; it is also considered a harbinger of death, so to dream about one or have one fly over your house is bad luck. immature 29 ...