The Saddle-billed Stork is one of the most strikingly attractive bird species in South Africa (in stark contrast to their cousin, the marabou). They are very large birds, standing up to 1.5m high, with a wingspan over 2.5m and a weight of up to 7.5kg.
Saddle-billed Storks are usually seen singly or in pairs in wetlands, pans and along rivers and streams, where they feed predominantly on fish, frogs, crabs and other aquatic animals, occasionally taking small reptiles, mammals and birds. The breeding season coincides with the dry season to ensure food is in easy supply from shrinking pools. Nests are platforms constructed from sticks in large trees near water in which one or two eggs only are incubated for around 30 days.
The Saddle-billed Stork has a wide distribution in sub-saharan Africa, though despite being considered “Least Concern” by the IUCN they are uncommon throughout this range and their population is probably decreasing due to loss of habitat. In South Africa they are considered endangered and occur only in the north of Kwazulu-Natal and the Lowveld of Mpumalanga and Limpopo, with about 30 breeding pairs occurring in the Kruger National Park.