Terrestrial herons and terrestrial storks
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Black-headed Heron L: 92 cm (36") |WS: 150 cm (59") A typical heron in shape, this mostly grey bird with a distinct black cap and white throat (although juveniles are duskier) is a dry-land species . It resembles a juvenile Grey Heron (page 21), but has slate-grey rather than yellowish legs and a darker bill . At all ages the underwing pattern is much more strongly two-toned than on Grey Heron, with pale forewings contrasting with black flight feathers . An uncommon but widespread resident in Kruger, this heron is usually found away from water, happily foraging in burnt grassland or open savannah, although it may also occasionally haunt a pond or quiet river bend . Terrestrial herons: 2 and storks adult immature adult 60 Abdim’s Stork L: 73 cm (29") |WS: 140 cm (55") A relatively small, dark stork, with blackish wings, back and neck, and a white belly . The legs are greyish, with distinctive pink-red feet and knees, the bill is greyish, and the facial skin bluish and red . Abdim’s Stork could be confused with the rarer and more solitary Black Stork (not illustrated), but is smaller, has a white rump, and dull rather than bright red legs and bill . It is a non-breeding intra-African migrant and is rare in some years but abundant in others, present during spring and summer (October–April), when huge flocks can be found around insect irruptions as the summer rains intensify . NT BIRDS OF PLAINS AND OPEN WOODLANDS 61 Wetland storks are covered on pages 26–28 Marabou Stork L: 152 cm (60") |WS: 300–370 cm (118–146") This huge, slaty-backed, white-bellied stork has a massive dagger-like bill and a naked pink head and neck that appears severely sunburned . A white ruff and loose inflatable skin on the neck add to its odd appearance and separate it from other storks . Most of the South African population, some 400 birds, occurs scattered across Kruger, mainly as non-breeding visitors . This stork is an excellent flier and is able to soar effortlessly at great heights searching for food; its wingspan exceeds that of most vultures . It has a highly varied diet and will eat almost anything: birds have even been recorded eating shoes and metal at garbage dumps! Marabous are equally content in wetlands and in dry bush, but are most frequently encountered lurking on the margins of kills, where they opportunistically snatch carrion . On hot days they defecate onto their legs for evaporative cooling (a habit known as urohidrosis), staining them whitish . NT L: 152 cm (60") |WS: 300–370 cm (118–146") Terrestrial storks 62 White Stork L: 115 cm (45") |WS: 155–215 cm (61–85") A large, white-and-black bird with long red legs, a long neck, and a straight, dagger-like red bill . In flight it is mostly white with a broad black trailing edge to the wings above and below . Juvenile birds are dingier . This is a spring and summer migrant (October– April) to Kruger, where it often occurs in open grasslands in small- to medium-sized flocks . It soars expertly, using thermals to gain height, often in wheeling flocks . White Storks eat mostly insects, but will also take reptiles, birds and small mammals . They regularly forage in association with ungulates, which flush prey, and occur with other birds, including Abdim’s Storks (page 61), at insect emergences . The White Stork is revered across its Eurasian breeding range as the‘bringer of babies’, and by Muslims for this migrant’s tendency to make an annual pilgrimage to Mecca! BIRDS OF PLAINS AND OPEN WOODLANDS 63 ...