Secretaries Lethal Legs

Secretary birds stomp in surrounding vegetation, run down their prey….

The sharp end of the secretary bird
The Secretary Bird. Photo by Masakazu Kobayashi from Pixabay.

The elegant secretary bird stands around 4 ft (1.2 m) tall and spends the day walking around from dawn to dusk. Sometimes operating in pairs, if you are fortunate you may see one. They can be found on the African Savannah and apparently named after the feathers on their heads that look like quills that secretaries used for writing in the 19th century.

They spend their day walking in the Savannah finding prey in the form of rodents, insects, frogs, snakes and even tortoises. They often stomp in surrounding vegetation to flush its prey out. They they chase it, running it down and kicking their prey with their long legs. Once its dead or stunned our raptor often swallows the prey whole.

Those deadly legs
Secretary bird striding across the Savannah. Photo by Brenypix from Pixabay.

When fighting snakes the snake is distracted by the wings as the bird spreads them to confuse the snake. Invariably the snake strikes the feathers and achieves very little. In addition to this strategy, the scales on the birds legs provide good protection.

Although the secretary bird walks between 12 miles (19 km) and 20 miles (32 km) in a day it is a very competent flier able to reach great heights. They roost and nest in tall acacia trees but also fly during courtship which involves flying high and then swooping down, sometimes towards each other.

Courtship on the ground involves dancing around each other with wings spread. When a partner is chosen, the couple build a nest out of sticks in a tall acacia tree. between 1 and 3 pale green blue eggs are laid and the female does most of the incubation.

Both parents feed the chicks regurgitated food they have caught. for the first few weeks there is always a parent on the nest. At first the chicks learn to eat by the parents tearing strips of meat from the prey. After about 40 days they are eating prey that the parents drop at the nest. 6 weeks later they will fledge, being 12 weeks old.

Fledge is probably not appropriate as the youngsters do more of a semi controlled fall from the tree with wings flapping but achieving little. Not a very elegant beginning at all.

From there the parents teach them to hunt, kick and fly. Not long after that the youngsters will wander off on their own.

Secretary birds in acacia tree
Secratery birds in acacia tree overlooking the Savannah. Photo by Taryn Scholtz from Pixabay.

Secretary birds mate for life and are not immune to snake venom !

2 replies on “Secretaries Lethal Legs”

Thanks Cindy but I cant take the credit for the pics only for choosing them 🙂
You were fortunate to see them. I spent a lot of time in Africa but only saw one on the side of the road while travelling in the Eastern Cape.
The African wildlife is magnificent but I am really keen on seeing the wildlife on other continents too.
Thanks for the comment and the support.
Have an awesome day!


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