, Balaeniceps rex
, also known as Whalehead
, is related to the storks. It derives its name from its massive shoe-shaped bill.
The Shoebill is a very large bird, averaging 1.2 metres (4 ft) tall,5.6kilograms (12.3 lbs) and a 2.33 metres (7.7 ft) wingspan. The adult is mainly grey while the juveniles are browner. It lives in tropical east Africa in large swamps from Sudan to Zambia.
This species was only discovered in the 19th century
when some skins were brought to Europe. It was not until years later that live specimens reached the scientific community. However, the bird was known to both ancient Egyptians and Arabs. There are Egyptian images depicting the Shoebill, while the Arabs referred to the bird as abu markub
, which means one with a shoe
, a reference to the bird's distinctive bill.
Shoebills feed in muddy waters, preying on lungfish and similar fish. They nest on the ground and lay 2 eggs.
The population is estimated at between 5,000 and 8,000 individuals, the majority of which live in Sudan. Birdlife International have classified it as Vulnerable with the main threats being habitat destruction,disturbance and hunting.
(Scanned from film)