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Stork, Marabou

Identify and index birds in Southern Africa
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Stork, Marabou

Unread post by francoisd » Tue Jan 25, 2005 8:26 am

This thread is about Marabou Storks only. If you have any photos of or interesting information about Marabou Storks you can post it here. Maybe you have made an interesting observation while watching Marabou Storks in one of the SANParks that you want to share with the rest of us; this is the place to do it.

Marabou Stork (Leptoptilos crumeniferus)

Marabou Storks next to a low water bridge close to Skukuza

Other names:
French: Marabout d'Afrique, Marabout africain
German: Marabu
Dutch: Afrikaanse Maraboe

Weight: 4–8.9 kg
Height: 115–152 cm
Habitat: Tropical Africa. Lives on savannahs, in marshy areas and along rivers and lakes.
Sexual maturity: 4 years
Incubation period: 29–31 days
Number of eggs per clutch: 1–4, usually 2–3
Food: Carrion, fish, termites, frogs, rats, mice, snakes, birds – as big as juvenile flamingos
Life expectancy: 25 years in the wild, 41 years in captivity.

“To the casual observer the massive Marabou Stork with its balding, scabby head and pendulous pink air sac may appear to be one of the ugliest creatures in the world. If this same observer were to notice the Marabou's fondness for carrion and its habit of squirting excrement onto its own legs he or she would probably consider the original opinion to be justified. It takes a real bird lover to see past all of this stork's bizarre adornments to recognize the scruffy charm underneath.” (Smithsonian fact sheet)

The Marabou Stork is a large wading bird in the stork family Ciconiidae. It breeds in Africa south of the Sahara, occurring in both wet and arid habitats, often near human habitation, especially waste tips.

A large male Marabou Stork, standing up to 1.5 m tall and weighing nearly 9 kg, is one of the largest flying birds in the world. Its 3.2 m (10.5 ft) wingspan means that it shares the distinction of having the largest wingspan of any landbird with the Andean Condor. Females are generally smaller. Unlike most storks Marabous fly with the neck retracted like a heron.

The Marabou is unmistakable due to its size, bare head and neck, black back, and white underparts. It has a huge bill, a pink gular sack at its throat, a neck ruff, and black legs and wings. The sexes are alike, but the young bird is browner and has a smaller bill. Full maturity is not reached for up to four years.

Marabou Storks will eat just about any kind of animal, dead or alive. Living prey includes termites, fish, locusts, grasshoppers, army-worm caterpillars, frogs, rodents, crocodile eggs and hatchlings, quelea nestlings, doves, young and adult flamingos, cormorant nestlings, and pelican chicks.

Marabous evolved their naked heads and necks as an adaptation for feeding on large animal carcasses without getting their head feathers soiled with blood and gore. More than 200 Marabous were seen feeding on a single elephant carcass in Kruger National Park. They rely on vultures and other scavengers to open the tough outer hides and then use their cleaver-like bills to retrieve and then swallow surprisingly large pieces of meat. They are not above stealing morsels from other smaller scavengers.

Also see the detailed information posted by DQ below
Last edited by francoisd on Fri Feb 24, 2006 3:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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An interesting fact

Unread post by bushwacker » Fri Jul 29, 2005 10:55 pm

The colour of marabou storks legs comes from them urinating on their legs which is used to cool the birds bodies down.. as the urine dries is becomes white crust as seen on their legs

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Unread post by DuQues » Tue Feb 14, 2006 2:57 pm

Marabou Stork (Leptoptilos crumeniferus)

The Marabou's back and wings are dark slate-gray with a touch of green iridescence on the wings and pale blue iridescence on the back. The feathers of the neck ruff, chest and belly are white. The scientific name Leptoptilos, Lepto = fine and ptilo = feather, refers to the long, pure-white, elegant, fluffy undertail-coverts that were once in great demand by the millinery trade. The neck is short and thick. Their necks and heads are naked and dull pink to brown as is the bill. The bill is heavy, straight and sharp-pointed. There is red around the eyes and legs. There is a naked skin-covered pouch hanging a foot or more from the throat which is part of the respiratory system.

This stork's throat pouch contains air sacs that the bird can inflate and deflate. It may play a role in courtship. They have very long, dark grey legs. The feet are short and webbed with stubby toes and blunt claws.

A large male Marabou Stork, standing up to 1.5 m tall and weighing nearly 9 kg, is one of the largest flying birds in the world. Their wingspan approaches 2.9 m. Females are generally smaller.

The most distinctive feature of the Marabou is the nearly bald, spotted, scab-encrusted head, with its huge meat-cleaver bill. Dark, wispy hair-like feathers are scattered sparsely across the head, neck, and nape. The bare skin of the head and neck is predominantly pink to magenta in color, with spots of darker pigmentation concentrating around the face and extending down into the upper portion of the horn-colored bill. In breeding season the back of the neck turns a beautiful pale blue-green, and the spots on the face and forehead become encrusted with dried blood.

Their bare heads and throats are probably an adaptation to reduce soiling while feeding on carrion. Storks resemble herons but have no down feathers or comb on the middle toe. Their sharp bills can not tear flesh, but can deal a lethal blow which allows them to steal from vultures at a carcass.
Their eyes are grayish-brown. The skin of the legs and feet is naturally dark gray to black but appears to be much lighter due to the encrustation of excrement.

In flight, the neck is retracted and the legs are stretched straight out. Wing flapping is alternated with soaring on thermals. They are partially migratory birds.

They live in the lowlands, savannas, marshlands, lakes, and watercourses of tropical Africa, as well as around towns and villages.

They are attracted from great distances to grass fires, where they march along the fire front seeking food.
They feed on aquatic animals, carrion, termites, fish, frogs, small mammals, young crocodiles and flamingoes, the remains of lion kills, and human garbage. Marabous are also frequent invaders of flamingo flocks, where they prey on eggs and chicks.

Marabous can become rather tame and will stand with a few feet of workers cleaning carcasses, patiently waiting for scraps. A Marabou in Kenya swallowed an entire bloody butcher knife that had been set down momentarily by an abattoir worker. The spotlessly clean knife was found a few days later where the stork had apparently regurgitated it in the same manner it would indigestible natural foods.

Social Behavior and reproduction
These birds are mute. They communicate by clattering their bills loudly. They have no syrinx (voice box).
Sexual displays include a variety of elaborate postures and stylized dancing or walking in place during which the bill is often rattled or clattered.

These storks breed in colonies of 20 to 60 pairs, often in association with other species of Ciconiiformes and waterbirds such as Abdim's Storks, Yellow-billed Storks, Pink-backed Pelicans, herons, egrets, ibises and cormorants. Most colonies consist of 20-60 pairs but may number in the thousands. Individuals will return to the same colony and nest site year after year. Prime colony locations are relatively free of disturbance, near marshy habitat, and reasonably close to good food sources.

Male storks arrive at the nesting site first and establish themselves on a territory. They fully inflate their gular sacs and greet all arrivals with equal hostility. A courting female will respond to this aggression with passivity and a submissive display until she is accepted as a mate. Thereafter she will inflate her own gular sac and repel subsequent intruders.

Nests are placed in trees or occasionally on cliff-ledges. Though nest locations can be reused every year, the nest itself usually requires extensive renovations. The completed nesting platform is a structure of coarse sticks 1 m in diameter and 30 cm thick, lined with twigs and leaves.

The female lays 2-3 chalky white eggs. Both parents incubate for 29-31 days. The pale gray down of the newly hatched chicks is quickly replaced by a thicker covering of white down. Chicks grow rapidly in the first few weeks of life as their parents keep them constantly supplied with food regurgitated onto the floor of the nest. Their growth rate slows down as they begin to channel more of their energy into feather development. The pre-fledging period, 95-115 days, is relatively long in this species. Most birds reach sexual maturity in their fourth year and may live for more than 25 years.

Status In The Wild

Hunting pressure in Africa has caused the marabou stork population to decrease throughout its range.
The Marabou's more enlightened neighbors appreciate its efficiency in reducing disease by cleaning up carcasses and other rubbish.
Not posting much here anymore, but the photo's you can follow here There is plenty there.

Feel free to use any of these additional letters to correct the spelling of words found in the above post: a-e-t-n-d-i-o-s-m-l-u-y-h-c

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Unread post by Bush Baptist » Sat Feb 25, 2006 10:05 am

They are oftem seen in large numbers on the H7 a kilometre from Satara where the rubbish dump is well hidden.
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Unread post by leopardspotter » Sat Nov 11, 2006 9:42 am

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Unread post by Wild about cats » Tue Feb 20, 2007 1:32 pm


Again, it was raining. :(
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Marabous and bees? Possibly symbiotic relationship?

Unread post by Ranger Piet » Sat Mar 03, 2007 2:31 pm

On the SA Birdnet somebody posted a questions (based on a school assignment) about the existence of a symbiotic relationship between marabous and bees, and which form this would have if it existed.

Is anybody on this forum aware of such a relationship? (Note: symbiotic does not necessarily mean 'to the benefit of both species'! This form is called 'mutualism and is only one many forms of symbiosis (greek for 'living together). E.g. commensalism (benefit to one, neutral to the other) and parasitism are also forms of symbiosis.)

Maybe there is no such relationship, but if anybody knows about it please tell us about it. If I get more info from another source, I'll post it here as well.
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Unread post by Elsa » Thu Mar 15, 2007 11:00 am

Seen in the Sand river from the low level bridge.


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Unread post by arks » Sun Mar 18, 2007 3:55 pm

Shingwedzi approach road, April 2006

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H7 near Satara, May 2006
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Unread post by timbo » Sat May 12, 2007 8:47 am

I know this is a bit late but who cares.:oops:
Hey saw this one on the road from lower sabie to croc bridge.

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Tagged Marabou

Unread post by bert » Mon Sep 17, 2007 7:50 pm

Took a picture and at home saw this marabou, taken near the Sabie on the H4-1, about 10 km from skukuza in august 2007

Tagnumber is:A041.

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Unread post by Johann » Fri Sep 21, 2007 7:52 am

There is an article in the June/July issue of African Birds & Birding (Vol 12 No 3) titled "Tagging Along - Monitoring Marabou in Swaziland".
It is about a project in Swaziland to tag and monitor some Marabou as it seems to be the only nesting site south of the Limpopo. Only other site in Southern Africa seems to be in the Okavango. Their tags look very similar to yours Bert. Some of the birds have been seen as far away as Springbok (Northern Cape), Thabazimbi (North-West) and in Kruger.

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Unread post by gwendolen » Thu Dec 27, 2007 10:25 am

Lower Sabie road (November 2007)

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Unread post by Bush Baptist » Thu Jan 03, 2008 5:43 pm

Saw them soaring above Satara last week. They just hung in the sky quite high up, enjoying the thermals.
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Unread post by anne catherine » Sun May 04, 2008 5:57 pm

Seen this one from the level bridge at Shingwedsi, last february


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