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Secretary Bird – The Bird That Can Kill Any Snake

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Secretary Bird - The Bird That Can Kill Any Snake

Did you ever meet a bird that both looks very cool, elegant, and is a fierce snake killer? Then let’s meet the one and only magnificent secretary bird!

Today we will join the adventure of our lifetime and travel to Africa to meet the most adorable bird that only looks innocent, but, inside the secretary bird’s chest, a heart of a fierce warrior is living.

let’s explore the life of the fearless African assassin, secretary bird.

I bet you really want to know why the bird has such an unusual name? Yes, I will reveal this dark secret, but first, let’s learn where this bird comes from.

Secretary bird name origin

Secretary Bird - The Bird That Can Kill Any Snake

The Latin name of the secretary bird Sagittarius serpentarius means “archer” and “snakes,” so it is obvious that these raptors mostly aim for serpents for food.

You may also know that the word Sagittarius is the name of one of the Zodiac signs,

So does it mean that all secretary birds are born from mid-November to mid-December? Unfortunately, no, but it would be a fun coincidence!

This interesting bird got its name got in 1783 from the French naturalist Johann Hermann and many other scientists who tried to change it to bring it closer to scientific naming, but since Hermann’s was the first, it stuck with people.

What’s funny is that Hermann wasn’t actually a person who introduced the creature to a New World.

The bird was first described by Arnout Vosmaer, a Dutch naturalist, back in 1769.

As for its evolution, scientists were puzzled by the secretary bird’s evolutionary path for the longest time.

Now we know that this bird is the only species of its family, Sagittariidae, and it is part of Falconiformes order, so this bird of prey is related to hawks, falcons, and other raptors.

How secretary bird got its name

And finally, let’s talk about the non-Latin, a.k.a, “human name” of the secretary bird.

It’s believed that the secretary bird got this name due to the beautiful long black feathers it has on its head that look just like secretary quill pens.

Since this bird is also tall and has a very elegant appearance, it is understandable why people considered these raptors similar to human secretaries.

We are an amazing species that tries to find similarities everywhere, don’t we?

where do secretary birds live?

As I mentioned, our sweet, sometimes flying friend is an African endemic, particularly it lives in sub-Saharan Africa.

So you know that this bird definitely likes its home space hot, but not too hot because they rarely can be met in the hottest regions, and never in deserts.

The bird prefers savannas and grasslands where it can stand tall and look around freely for the prey.

Secretary birds are not afraid of heights and can live at elevations; however, they still prefer picking homes in places with a lot of free space.

They do not appreciate tall grass, and usually, you can meet them only in places with grass growing only under 2 feet (~0.5 m).

In this long grass, the birds can walk freely and look around for their prey.

Secretary bird feet

The species has the longest legs among all raptors, and it can successfully crouch the legs when the bird needs it.

Scientists say that the secretary bird can walk up to 18 miles (30 km) a day in search of food!

Secretary bird behavior

When it is time to make sweet loving, the birds create huge nests about 4.9 feet (1.5 m) in diameter on trees from grass, sticks, and feathers.

It will be a home for future little ones, but the birds seem not to be too attached to their nests.

When they are ruined, secretary birds just build a new one, forgetting about the old crib.

Secretary birds do not migrate like other birds, but sometimes they can move from one African country to another if they are bored, but mostly because of the changes in their habitat or there’s not enough prey for them to live on.

The Appearance of the secretary bird

Secretary Bird - The Bird That Can Kill Any Snake

Our sub-Saharan friends are definitely the “hotties” of the hottest continent. They are tall, neat, and look like they have some important news to tell you about.

It is a very large terrestrial bird with a head taken from an eagle and legs taken from a crane.

It is mostly covered with very nice white feathers with grayish undertones, but the tail and wings are black, giving the creature a more sophisticated look.

You can recognize the secretary bird not just by its nice suit but also by its very colorful face: it is usually orange, red or yellow.

And, of course, the most exciting part of this excellent bird is its crown.

It does look like the secretary bird just put these quills behind imaginary ears and now walking around thinking about the things it wrote.

Maybe it does, but we will never know: unfortunately, people can’t talk to birds. At least, yet!

The magnificent body of this bird ends with long pinkish legs with strong feet that are, unfortunately, not strong enough to grasp something with them.

That’s why the secretary bird rarely flies and only when they really need it.

Secretary bird size

Now, let’s move to the size. Males and females are not all that different, and you can’t really tell whether it is a female secretary or a male until you look closer.

Most secretary birds can grow to be about 4.2 feet (1.3 m) on average and weigh about 9 lbs (~4.10 kg).

As for the length of the birds’ bodies, they usually can grow to be up to 4.9 feet (1.5 m) long,

which makes them the tallest and longest raptors in the world. Quite an accomplishment!

Love season for the secretary bird

Secretary Bird - The Bird That Can Kill Any Snake

Like many other birds of prey, secretary birds usually do not enjoy each other’s company other than their significant other’s.

However, sometimes you can meet a small group of up to five birds hanging around together.

Secretary birds mate for life, and they create nests together to have kids, as I mentioned before.

They do not live in these nests after the children are old enough to look for their own path in life, and the pair usually just roams around in search of food, keeping each other in sight.

The birds can mate all year round, but the most significant loving season for them is from August to September.

Secretary birds have one to three eggs in a clutch, and since little secretaries have many enemies, usually only one survives to adulthood.

Little ones look really similar to their parents, but their black hair is more brownish.

So, as we learned, the Secretary birds have blissful, full of love lives, and in the wilderness, they can enjoy it for about 10 to 15 years.

In captivity, some specimens survived to celebrate their 20-year jubilee,

So maybe fresh air and a lot of physical activity these raptors enjoy in the wilderness is not so good for them at the end of the day.

Secretary birds and snakes: turmoil relationships with a spice.

As a human, I am pretty indifferent to snakes. I don’t love them, but I do not hate them either.

Secretary bird vs snake

However, secretary birds seem to be having a true love-hate relationship with snakes. They hate them so much that they kill them to feel the taste they love.

When a secretary bird sees a snake, it tries to hit it with a beak to immobilize or kill it on the spot. 10 Animals that can kill venomous snakes

If it works, then a pair, since these birds usually hunt together, enjoy the snack and move on to the next prey.

Secretary birds are truly tireless: they hunt from sunrise until the evening!

However, snakes are not losers of the animal world too, so they really try to bite the dangerous killing bird too to save their lives.

It sometimes works since secretary birds are not as great with dealing with poison as our lovely friends, honey badgers.

So, to avoid death from poison, secretary birds try to stick a snake’s mouth with their wing feathers, and when the snake is confused and with a mouth full of feathers, a secretary bird reveals its secret weapon: a killer kick!

This killer kick is so powerful that some people even call the secretary bird “a natural-born ninja!”

Not such a bad side-job for a secretary, don’t you think?

A single powerful kick can deliver about 195 newtons of force, equivalent to about 45 lbs (20 kg) falling on a poor snake’s head. It is absolutely impressive!

As for other items on the birds’ menu, they usually eat other small reptiles, mammals, even insects if they want to.

But snakes will always be their favorite, like sushi to them.

Secretary bird and Humans

Adult birds don’t really have enemies. Except for humans, of course.

Even though the distribution of secretary birds is quite large around Africa,

in 2020, it was stated that the species now has an endangered status, and the number of secretary birds dramatically decreases year after year.

Unfortunately, as always, humans are the problem here because we intrude into the birds’ natural habitat, change it, and leave them no other choice but to die.

And that’s sad. However, we really try to save the secretary bird in the wilderness to allow future generations to watch and admire these amazing creatures.

Leave your suggestions in the comment section below, and, until the next time, farewell!

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