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Table of Contents
Overview of the Marabou Stork
The Marabou Stork, scientific name Leptoptilos crumeniferus, is a long-legged bird in the stork family Ciconiidae.
The legs are grey, their beaks are grey, and their wings are dark grey. Their chests and bellies are white.
The Marabou Stork has pink faces that are speckled with black spots and they have a long throat sack that is bare and light grey or red in color.
Common nicknames for the Marabou Stork include “The Undertaker Bird” and “The Ugliest Bird on the Planet.”
Their name, translated from Arabic, means “hermit-like” or “quiet.”
These birds grow up to five feet in height and can weigh up to twenty pounds. In captivity, Marabou Storks can live up to twenty years.
Their lifespan in the wild is not yet known but is estimated to be around twenty-five years.
Marabou Storks are carnivores and eat everything from insects, fish, and small reptiles to carcasses left by lions. They primarily live in Africa and can be found across the Sub Saharan.
The Origin and Evolution Of The Marabou Stork
Marabou Storks are found on the African continent in the south Sahara.
They like to flock near wetlands, fishing villages, landfills, and alongside large herds of mammals, such as lions.
These birds are not on any conservation lists.
Scientists believe that the population is actually increasing because they are versatile and easily adapt to life around humans.
Not only will these birds eat the carcass of deceased animals, but they will also scavenge for food in the trash.
It is believed that they do not pose any risk to humans; however, they offer a great service by decreasing the spread of disease from rotting animal flesh.
The Marabou Storks can be found living in over thirty African countries including Antola, Botswana, Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and more. The unofficial bird of Uganda is the Marabou Stork.
Marabou Stork Behavior
In general, the Marabou Stork are relatively quiet birds. They have the ability to make noise by rattling its bill, croaking, and grunting.
They are able to make these sounds by using their throat pouch. The throat pouch is utilized most frequently during the mating season.
Mating happens when Africa is experiencing the dry season. Marabou Stork will flock together near water sources and feast upon fish.
Once a male has established his territory, he will try to attract females by using his throat pouch. Once a female accepts the courtship, the birds will build a nest together.
They nest on cliff sides, on buildings, or in trees. Nests are made of sticks and will hold up to three eggs as well as the nesting mother.
The female will lay one egg at a time, wait for a period of two or three days, then continue laying the next egg.
Both the male and the female will participate in nest building as well as the incubation of the eggs. Eggs incubate from 29 to 31 days.
The newly hatched chicks will not be ready to fly until they reach approximately fifteen weeks old. It is estimated that only one out of every three fledglings will survive.
Groups of over 1000 have been witnessed; however, a typical group of Marabou Stork ranges from forty to just over one hundred birds.
Every morning, when the temperature is just right, the birds will leave the roost and hunt for food. Occasionally the birds will migrate to find new food sources.
Marabou Storks are known to flock to wildfires so that they can feed on animals trying to escape.
They will eat live prey but prefer to scavenge for dead animal carcasses.
In some situations, Marabou Storks have been known to eat adult flamingos.
As previously mentioned, these birds do not pose a threat or risk to humans.
They are helpful to humans by decreasing the potential spread of disease.
Diseases are known to spread through the carcasses of dead animals. The Marabou Stork decreases the spread of disease because they eat the rotting flesh that has been left behind on the carcasses.
Marabou Stork Lifestyle and Health
In captivity, the Marabou Stork can live for over twenty-five years. There is conflicting information about how long they can live in the wild.
Some scientists are not convinced that we know an accurate lifespan; however, others believe they can live over twenty-five years in the wild.
These carnivorous birds maintain a diet of insects (like locust), fish, small reptiles (like lizards), and carrion. Carrion is the meat found on the carcasses of dead animals.
If they cannot scavenge for food on their own, they will have other animals and humans help them find food.
Ways that they do this are to follow packs of carnivorous animals, flock to fishing villages, and feast at garbage dumps.
Marabou Storks become ready to reproduce when they are between three and four years old.
Once a female has chosen the male, they will make a nest.
Once a male establishes his territory, he will seek a mate by using his throat pouch and a bill to attract females.
Female Marabou Storks produce anywhere from one to three eggs.
The egg-laying process is one egg, followed by a space of up to three days, followed by the second egg.
The waiting period will continue and the third egg will be laid if possible. In captivity, up to five eggs have been produced during one reproduction cycle.
The average incubation period for a Marabou Stork egg is approximately one month, give or take a few days.
Once the chicks hatch they will stay in the next for up to fifteen weeks. At fifteen weeks only one out of three fledglings will have survived.
At this time, there are no known threats of disease and the birds are not on any conservation lists.
When feeding on animal carcasses they must be careful about predators. Hyenas, leopards, and lions are all predators of the Marabou stork.
When the Marabou Stork needs to defend itself they will use their large bill and even larger wings to scare away predators.
Their wingspan can reach up to ten feet and their bill can measure up to thirteen inches.
As mentioned previously, the Marabou Stork is not on any watch lists. Its status is listed as “least concern.”
There are parts of South Africa where it is believed that the bird is “near threatened” because of the bird’s low population.
Marabou Stork are easily adaptable and scavenge for their food. Their population increases year after year because they are able to find food easily.
The global population of Marabou Stork was last estimated in 2006 to be upwards of 500,000.
Other Physical Characteristics
Marabou Storks are relatively large birds. They stand roughly five feet tall and weigh around twenty pounds.
Their wingspan is huge at over ten feet in length from the tip of one wing to the tip of the other when the wing is fully extended. Their powerful bills can reach up to thirteen inches in length.
The coloring of both males and females is very similar. Young Marabou Storks are primarily dull looking and grey in color. Their heads are bald, and they have a large throat pouch.
Adults have pink faces with black spots, white chests, and bellies, and their wings and backs are dark grey.
Feet and Legs
Marabou Storks have long, slender legs. Their legs and toes are hollow to help balance out the weight of their bodies and make it possible for them to fly.
Marabou Storks regulate their body temperature by defecating on their legs.
Marabou Storks have downy feathers that have been used in fashion for many years. Their feathers have graced hats, scarves, dresses, and shoes as far back as the 18th century.
The feathers of a Marabou Stork can also be used in lures for fly fishing, too.
Marabou Storks prefer to dwell near water sources such as rivers, lakes, marshes, and swamps. They will also live near fishing villages and landfills because they make excellent sources of food.
Even though these storks like to live near water, they do not prefer wet habitats.
They prefer dry areas with limited rainfall. They also prefer open areas over wooded areas.
These birds nest in trees, on cliff sides, and on top of tall buildings. Their nests consist of sticks, twigs, leaves, and branches. Both birds will help build the nest and incubate the eggs.
It is projected that these birds may become dependent on humans for food. They are able to eat their fill near waste management plants, slaughter houses, fisheries, and other places humans dump garbage.
There are places, like Nigeria, where the Marabou Stork is hunted to make medicine. While it is possible to eat the meat from a Marabou Stork, health officials in Africa do not support the practice.
They believe that eating the meat from a scavenging animal, such as the Marabou Stork, could cause harmful disease if the meat is contaminated.
If humans do not do a better job controlling these bird’s access to trash and other waste we may continue to see an increase in the species as well as a dependence on humans for food.
FAQs About the Marabou Stork
What does a marabou stork look like?
Marabou Storks are not the beautiful, gracious-looking like other storks in the same family.
They are known for being ugly.
The ugliest bird on the planet, in fact. This bird has also been nicknamed “The Undertaker Bird” for its appearance.
From behind, the birds coloring looks like it is wearing a black cloak.
They are bald headed, have grey or red throat pouches, and stand on long, skinny legs.
They use their feces to regulate their body temperature, so their legs may look white in appearance, but they are actually grey in color.
Their feathers are dark grey on the back and wings, while their bellies and chests are downy white.
Where does marabou come from?
Marabou Storks live in the Sub-Saharan part of Africa. They are found in over thirty countries in Africa and are the unofficial bird of Uganda.
They gravitate towards areas that are dry or have low rainfall but need to have access to water sources.
The most common places to find Marabou Storks is in swamps, marshes, grasslands, near fishing villages, and in garbage dumps.
Is marabou stork meat poisonous?
Marabou Stork meat is not poisonous; however, health officials in Africa do not condone eating the meat. These birds are scavengers by nature and their meat may be contaminated by something they eat.
In some parts of the world, such as Kigali, the Marabou Stork meat (also known as Karoli) is acceptable to eat because the storks are not able to feed on garbage.
What does a marabou stork eat?
Marabou Storks eat a variety of food. They are carnivores, or meat eaters. They will eat many things including insects, lizards, small animals, birds, and the meat from dead animal carcasses.
Flamingos, baby alligators, lizards, and locusts are among the different types of food that a Marabou Stork might seek out. They will also feast on fish and garbage when available.
These birds are great for cleaning up dead animal carcasses and can often be seen alongside vultures.
Can marabou storks fly?
Not only can Marabou Storks fly, but they are excellent flyers. Marabou Storks are able to fly thanks in part to their hollow legs and feet.
Their wingspan can reach over ten feet which helps them to reach very high altitudes.
Are marabou storks dangerous?
Marabou Storks are very powerful. They are not known to attack humans and they live peacefully alongside them.
It is important to note that thanks to their large size they do prey on some fairly large animals.