Sagittarius serpentarius

The Secretarybird is a very unusual raptor, with a long neck, even longer legs and a bunch of quill-like feathers at the back of its head, like pens behind a secretary’s ear, possibly earning it its name. Another explanation for the name comes from a French corruption of an Arabic word, saqr-et-tair, meaning “hunter bird”, which is a great description of its lifestyle. They are up to 1.5m tall, with a wingspan of over 2 meters and a weight up to 5kg.

Secretarybirds roam savannas, grasslands and semi-deserts, usually singly or in pairs, walking along in search of prey, which ranges from eggs, insects and other invertebrates to small mammals (up to the size of hares), birds, amphibians and reptiles – even large, poisonous snakes – which they immobilise or kill by vigorously stomping on it with their feet. Secretarybirds breed throughout the year, in nests built of sticks atop flat-topped trees. Two to three eggs are laid and incubated mostly by the female for about 45 days, though both parents feed the chicks until they leave the nest at about 80 days old and then are taught how to hunt for themselves. At times they congregate in flocks of up to 50 birds at waterholes, but pairs are monogamous.

A Secretarybird features prominently on the coat of arms of South Africa, and can be found all over the country, although they are not very common and even less so outside the major conservation areas. Even in the Kruger National Park it is thought that the population stands at only about 250 – 300 adult birds. The IUCN considers them “Vulnerable” as their populations have declined severely, mostly due to habitat loss and hunting for traditional medicine (the belief being that their ground-up bones confers respect, power and fearlessness).


30 thoughts on “Secretarybird

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  4. Nature on the Edge

    Such an impressive bird, the way it strides out so fearlessly. Encountered one here in the Cape of Good Hope reserve – marching through the restio flats. Just one sighting and never again. Mythical creature, keep hoping it will reappear.

    Liked by 1 person


        Dis omdat ons die enigste plot was in die begin. Dit was Sangiro se plaas wat opgedeel is in plotte. Na mate daar meer mense ingekom het het die voëls ook verdwyn. Daar was selfs op die rantjies meerkatgate met nuuskierige families wat gedurig op die uitkyk was vir gevaar.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. perdebytjie

    Een van my gunstelinge.Niks kom by daardie parmantige selfversekerdheid nie.Die landing van ‘n sekretarisvoel,is sekerlik die lagwekkendste ding om te aanskou…amper soos ‘n vliegtuig wat die aanloopbaan mis.Pragtige foto’s Dries!


    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Dankie Dina! Dis een van my helderste herinneringe van my eerste besoek aan die Kalahari; n hele “swerm” sekretarisvoels wat by Kwang watergat ingekom het vir landing, soos n lugmag eskader een na die ander…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Midwestern Plant Girl

    Very interesting bird! Kinda looks like a Mother Nature had a few extra bird parts left over and put this guy together 😉
    So sad about the environment getting taken again… 😢

    Liked by 1 person

    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Secretarybirds are very intriguing birds, Ilex – both in their habits and looks – and always worth watching when you encounter them.

      Unfortunately it seems we are threatening more and more species by the day.

      Liked by 1 person


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