Shoebill - a terrifying ambush predator from Africa

Baku, April 26, AZERTAC

Some animals and birds could look harmless and peaceful at the first sight, however, this first impression could be changed in seconds, as soon as they show their real faces.

Scroll down to find out about one of the terrifying, yet dangerous birds on the planet Earth - the Shoebill.

Also known as whale-headed stork, this bird is the only representative of the family Balaenicipitidae (order Balaenicipitiformes).

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the species is named for its clog-shaped bill, which is an adaptation for catching and holding the large, slippery lungfish, its favourite food.

This big bird also eats turtles, fish, and young crocodiles. Shoebills stand about 115 cm (3.8 feet) tall.

They are entirely gray, with broad wings and long legs. The head is large in proportion to the body, and the eyes are also exceptionally large.

Like herons and pelicans, shoebills fly with the head held back against the body.

They nest on either floating vegetation or solid mounds and lay one to three white eggs, which hatch in about 30 days.

Shoebills inhabit swampy regions in and around the White Nile area of northeastern Africa.

At first glance, shoebills don’t seem like they could be ambush predators.

According to the National Geographic, Shoebills can stay motionless for hours, so when a hapless lungfish comes up for air, it might not notice this lethal prehistoric-looking bird looming until it is too late.

The birds practice a hunting technique called “collapsing,” which involves lunging or falling forward on their prey.

Despite all that, the birds are docile with humans, showing no threatening behavior.

The Shoebills considered as vulnerable species, with International Union for the Conservation of Nature estimating that there are only between 3,300 and 5,300 adult shoebills left in the world.

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