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Saddle-billed Stork
Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis

Ciconiiforme Order – Ciconiidae Family

Length: 145 à 150 cm
Wingspan : 240 à 270 cm
Weight: M: 5 à 7,5 kg – F: 5 à 7 Kg

LONGEVITY : Up to 36 years

Saddle-billed Stork is a very large bird, probably the tallest of the storks.

Adult male has black and white plumage. On the upperparts, mantle is white until the lower back which is black, as the rump. Wings and tail are black, with green iridescence.
On the underparts, breast, belly, vent and undertail coverts are white. On the under wing, coverts are black. Flight feathers and leading edges are white. Undertail feathers are black. 

Head and neck are black. The huge, slightly up curved bill is red, with large black band in the first half. Base is red, with conspicuous yellow frontal shield (the “saddle”) at upper base. We can see two small bright yellow wattles at lower base.
Eyes are dark brown. Legs and feet are blackish, with pinkish knees.

Female is slightly smaller than male. She is similar in plumage, but she has yellow eyes and she lacks the two wattles at base of the bill.

Juvenile is duller, mostly grey overall. Immature resembles adults, but duller.

It reaches its sexual maturity at three years or more. 

Saddle-billed Stork is a silent species. The only noise we can hear is bill-clattering at nest, as other storks.

Saddle-billed Stork lives in aquatic areas such as marshes, margins of rivers, wet grasslands, freshwater or salt-water lakes. This species avoids the forests, but can be seen in open semi-arid areas.

Saddle-billed Stork is resident in Africa, south of the Sahara, to South Africa.

Saddle-billed Stork feeds as large herons, by walking slowly in shallow water. It stalks preys such as fish, crustaceans and amphibians. It also searches by stabbing the bill into water, catching prey by contact, and in the same way into mud and vegetation. It swallows the fish head first and then, it drinks some water. Preys are jabbed with the bill.

Saddle-billed Stork is often seen in pairs, but sometimes in groups of 10 to 12 birds.
Saddle-billed Stork is solitary nester. Mates probably stay together all year, and form permanent pairs. They breed in the same nest year after year. That is why this species has less elaborate courtship displays. The most usual display is the bill-clattering, used when one of the mates returns to the nest, involving head raised and lowered, sometimes with some kinds of vocalizations and bill-clattering. These displays strengthen the pair-bonds.
Saddle-billed Stork is sedentary, with only some local movements in order to find food.

Saddle-billed Stork is able to take off easily, thanks to its wide wingspan. It takes flight with powerful wing beats, and then, it soars gracefully, but it depends on suitable thermals. It flies with head, neck and legs held slightly lower than body.

Breeding season often starts at the end of the rainy season, or in dry season.
Saddle-billed Stork nests solitary in treetop near water. The tall tree is often isolated from disturbances. These birds often reuse the same nest, adding new materials to the structure.
Nest is built by both adults. It is a large nest made with sticks and relatively flat, but deep enough for the incubating adult. The interior is lined with reeds, sedges and mud.

Female usually lays 2 to 3 eggs. Incubation lasts about 30 to 35 days, by both parents.
Chicks are covered in white down. They are fed by both adults. They fledge between 70 and 100 days after hatching.
This species does not usually breed every year. The young birds of one or two years remain in the territory with parents, until the next breeding period. 

Saddle-billed Stork feeds mainly on fish, crustaceans and amphibians. But it also takes reptiles, small mammals and young birds. While walking slowly in shallow water, it catches large water-beetles.

Saddle-billed Stork is widespread in its range. Populations are relatively stable, but threatened by changes in wetlands and excessive use of pesticides.     

Fr: Jabiru d’Afrique
All : Sattelstorch
Esp : Jabirú Africano
Ital :  Becco a sella africano
Nd : Zadelbekooievaar
Russe : Седлоклювый аист

Photographs of the male by Callie de Wet

Photographs of female and immature feeding by Steve Garvie
RAINBIRDER Photo galleries

Photograph of immature male with open wings by Didier Buysse
Vision d’Oiseaux

Texte de Nicole Bouglouan

Sources :

HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD vol 1 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliot-Jordi Sargatal - Lynx Edicions - ISBN: 8487334105

BIRDS OF AFRICA SOUTH OF THE SAHARA by Ian Sinclair and Peter Ryan - Princeton University Press Princeton and Oxford - ISBN: 0691118159

Avibase (Lepage Denis)

Wikipedia (Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia)

BirdLife International (BirdLife International)

Longevity records

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