Tuesday, September 6, 2011

ABC Wednesday: H is for Hammerkop


Hammerkops /Scopus umbretta) are also called Anvilhead or Hammerhead Stork. Although they do look and behave similar to shoebills, ibises, herons or storks, they are not closely related to any of them. Hammerkops are a family all of their own.


They feed on fish, tadpoles and frogs, but will also take insects. Sometimes a hammerkop will use a hippo as a lookout and waits for frogs ad other prey to be flushed by the hippo. Unless prey is plenty, they are usually found in pairs or alone. Here's a video of a group feeding on fish guts thrown away by fishermen - a photo cannot show how strange these birds really are.

During breednig seasons, bigger groups of hammerkops will take part in a sort of mating dance. Once a pair has bonded, they will build an enormous nest and sometimes more than one in one year. Other animals will share the nest or will take over abandoned nests, like weaver birds, owls and pigeons or even small mammals and bees. The nest is many times bigger and heavier than it would need to be for the adults and their 3-6 chicks and it's unknown why the hammerkop builds such huge structures. It enables the parents to leave the chicks alone for a long time since they are so well protected inside the nest. Monitor lizards still manage to rob a hammerkop nest fairly often.

See what else H stands for with ABC Wednesday
More birds at World Bird Wednesday

Photos were taken at London Zoo, Berlin Zoo and Frankfurt Zoo.
Sources and further reading:
Honolulu Zoo
Philadelphia Zoo
Internet Bird Collection

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