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Secretarybird - BirdForum Opus

Photo by Glazzers
Addo Elephant park, South Africa, August 2003
Sagittarius serpentarius


125–150 cm (4 - 5 feet long); 7-foot wingspan

  • Multiple feathered crest
  • Heavily scaled lower legs


Photo by volker sthamer
Ngorongoro, Tanzania, September 2017

Sub-Saharan Africa: widespread from Senegal and southern Mauritania east to Ethiopia and western Somalia and south to South Africa. Populations crashing in some parts of its range.

Absent from the forested areas of Central Africa. Commonest in southern Africa. Resident and nomadic.


The only species in the family Sagittariidae.

This is a monotypic species[1].


Open grassland and semi-desert, Acacia woodland.


Photo by Alan Manson
Near Wasbank, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, November 2011


Their diet consists mostly of arthropods, especially grasshoppers and beetles. They also eat small amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.

They are very skilled at catching snakes, including poisonous cobras and adders. All but the largest prey are swallowed whole. They walk, generally in pairs, searching for prey which they kill with a quick kick of the foot


They build a platform nest of sticks on the top of a low tree. The 2 eggs are incubated for 42 - 46 days. The young fledge between 9 and 15 weeks of age.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2017. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2017, with updates to August 2017. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. AvianWeb
  3. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved Sept 2017)

Recommended Citation

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