Birding, Etosha National Park, Namibia

Cunene Birds: Secretary Bird

Secretay Bird – Sagittarius serpentarius

Secretary Birds

The Secretary Bird is rather unique in looks and will not be easily confused with any other bird in the are. The face is orange and they have loose black feathers behind the head. The tail feather project beyond the legs in flight. (If seen in flight).

Status: The Secretary Bird is found through out southern Africa and is resident in some areas like the Etosha National Park.

The Robert’s Bird Guide list them as near-threatened. (They are very uncommon in the Epupa area and one will have to look very hard to find one.)

Food: Secretary Birds enjoy a variety of food, from insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and their eggs, small mammals and rodents. They catch most of their prey on the ground and kill it by stamping their feet on it. Their larger prey are torn before swallowed while smaller prey like tortoises are swallowed hole.

Call: They are very quiet.

Breeding: The Secretary Bird will breed in most open habitat areas, if suitable nesting trees are available. Secretary Bird pairs breed solitary with nests spaced at intervals of 9 – 13 km.

The nest is a huge, saucer-shaped stick platform build on top of a tree – mostly acacia trees. Nests are difficult to see from the ground but from the air, it is hard to miss with nests almost taking up the whole top of the tree.

Both sexes share in the building attempt and a new nest will be build for every breeding attempt. New dry grass is added during the breeding cycle. Building nests may not always result in breeding as some pairs continue building infinitely. Secretary Birds often sleep in nests during the night.

The Secretary Bird is monogamous.

Source: Roberts Bird Guide, 2007

A Guide to Nests & Eggs of Southern African Birds, Warwick Tarbaton, 2001

The Wildlife of Southern Africa, Vincent Carruthers, 1997

Photo: Copyright