Sunday, September 9, 2007

Whalehead (Shoebill Stork)

I was going through a new book I borrowed from my parents. It's called Water and Marsh Birds of the World written by Oliver Luther Austin and illustrated by Arthur Stinger (1967). There are lots of copies available still, found on Amazon.com and similar sites.
While I was flipping through the pages I was caught offguard by the image of the Shoebill, which the book calls a "Whalehead" and classifies as a type of stork.


I did some more research on Wikipedia and it explains that it's been a difficult bird to classify. Although previously thought to be related to the stork, now apparently it's closer to the Pelicans or the Herons.

Here's the image used on Wikipedia

The Oliver Austin book contains some interesting information about how the bird: it averages around 4 feet tall and it's bill is able 8 inches long. Its range is the papyrus swamps of the upper White Nile River and its tributaries into East Africa. Its bill has been adapted to poking around in the mud for lungfish and garfish.


According to Wikipedia, it's listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and there are between 5,000 and 8,000 of them left due to loss of habitat and hunting.

3 comments:

Birdfreak said...

The Shoebill is such a neat-looking bird. I don't know much about them though.

This is a great example of a really cool bird that is in serious trouble and many people don't even know it!

I didn't know their numbers were so low until I read your post. I am curious to know what kind of conservation efforts there for the Shoebill.

Larry said...

Wow!-Those birds are still around. It looks like somehing that would have been extinct a long time ago.-Thanks for the info.

Dana said...

Interesting. And I agree with Larry. From the picture, I thought it was an extinct bird!