Skip to content

Shoebill Bird » Features, Feeding, Way of Reproduction

Amongst the rarest animals in the world is the shoebill, a bird similar to the pelican, but with a surprising appearance, in the best style of prehistory.

Its scientific name is Balaeniceps rex and it is the only species of the family Balaenicipitidae.

Just by looking at its face you realize that it is not a very common animal and it is one of the rarest and most impressive birds found in the world.

But since it is unlikely you will ever see this strange creature, we describe it to you today.

Main characteristics of the Shoebill

The male Shoebill is 1.20 meters long and up to 1.50 meters high, but the females are a little smaller, measuring between 1 meter and 1.40 meters long. Their weight is between 4 and 7 kilograms.

The main colour of its plumage is bluish grey with ash, but the back is green, the ventral area and the tail are very close to white.

Its legs, similar to those of the stork, are black and its large eyes are yellow.

The Shoebill has a topknot on its head which gives it even more of a particular appearance.

This bird gets its name because its yellow beak, 25 cm and 10 cm wide, looks like a shoe, but it also resembles a hook because of its curved shape.

Its immense size prevents it from flying despite its large wings. This is why it spends most of its time on the ground.

Generally, the Shoebill loves to be alone and is not usually near other animals, even when hunting. However, this behaviour changes when the time comes to mate.

In addition to being very solitary creatures, they are not very noisy and do not like to be disturbed. Therefore, during the day they rest and hide to avoid predators and at night they hunt and immerse themselves in the activity. In other words, they are rare animals with nocturnal habits.

As for their life span it can reach up to 50 years, therefore, under normal conditions they have a long life.

Where does this bird live?

The Woodpecker lives in stagnant areas of the tropical regions of Africa.

Specifically, it is found in the Central African Republic, Congo, Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

What does the Shoebill eat?

The main element in the diet of this rare bird is fish, but they are not its only food as it also eats other animals such as amphibians, rodents, reptiles, snakes and waterfowl.

To hunt its prey it maintains a calm, patient and relaxed composure. The very moment it sees a chance to attack it does so by pouncing on the prey.

Breeding form of this strange bird

The Shoebill, like many other birds, is a monogamous species, which means that it has only one partner with which to reproduce.

These animals reach sexual maturity when they are 3 or 4 years old.

The breeding season is from May to August and this bird can become very violent to defend its territory.

The couple builds a nest from fallen canes and branches, and in it the female usually lays 2 eggs, although in the end only one will probably survive.

The incubation process extends for 1 month and both the male and the female are in charge of it.

However, in the Shoebill something unusual happens: when the parents leave the chicks alone in the nest, they start a fight by pecking at each other. Logically, one will be hurt more than the other. Then that chick will be rejected by its parents who throw it out of the nest so that it survives alone.

After a few days and due to the serious injuries, in some cases it ends up dying. Instead, the surviving chick will be cared for and fed until it is five months old.

From the time they are very small, it is evident how big they can get, since at only 2 months old they can measure 1 metre in height.

Shoebill bird Predators and Threats

Despite being an extraordinary bird, today the Shoebill is an endangered species (vulnerable according to the IUCN), especially caused by the action of humans who have become its main predator.

The greatest threat to this rare bird is the destruction of its natural habitat by farming and grazing activities. But also the theft of its eggs to sell them to the highest bidder becomes a danger.

Not to mention the increasing indiscriminate hunting either for commercialization to zoos, to feed on their meat or to exterminate a species in certain regions is considered bad luck.