The secretary bird (Sagittarius Serpentarius) is a large bird of prey related to eagles and hawks. It gets its name from its crest of black feathers on its head that make it resemble 18th-century secretaries with pens and pencils attached to their wigs. But this bird has another important distinction: prominent, long lashes that many models would love to have.
Images credits: Brian Connolly
Brian Connolly has been photographing nature for 10 years. Despite his experience, the secretary still manages to impress him. “From what I have seen, this bird is truly unique. They hunt snakes on the ground, crushing them with their dinosaur-like legs and heels.
Secretaries are carnivorous and diurnal birds of prey, and their ability to kill snakes from the African grasslands is well documented. Unlike most birds of prey, it is mostly terrestrial and hunts its prey on foot. It can take you to travel 30 km a day looking for snakes, insects and other animals.
And while they love to eat snakes and even cobras, they also eat lizards, amphibians, rodents, and bird eggs. Small animals are eaten whole, and larger animals are often crushed to the ground sooner.
They move quickly and getting them focused is always a challenge.” The secretary looks more like a friendly stork than a bird of prey. They usually measure 1.35 m tall, weigh about 3.3 kilos, and have a wingspan of 2 meters. Its head is relatively small, its beak is hooked and its plumage is light bluish-gray, with black feathers on its wings, thighs, and on the back of the head. And as we have already said, they have long and powerful legs.
They prefer grasslands, steppes, and savannas, living where the grass is shorter to hunt more easily. They build large nests in acacia trees and they tend to get bigger every year. These birds avoid forests and dense vegetation, as they restrict their movements.
Their courtship consists of chasing each other with their wings spread. Females lay 2 to 3 eggs, which are incubated for 45-50 days.
Youngsters start flapping their wings at 60 days but have no feathers on them until 80 days. Then they begin to go on an expedition with their parents who teach them how to hunt.
The secretary bird is admired in Africa for its incredible appearance and ability to rid itself of snakes and pests. It is part of the emblem of Sudan and the coat of arms of South Africa.