Shoe Bill Bird (Shoebill Facts and Information)

Shoe Bill Bird

What is a Shoe Bill Stark?

A shoe bill is a sizeable stork-like bird who is also known by the name as whale-head, whale-headed stork or shoe-billed stork. The name is derived from its enormous shoe-shaped bill. Also, the scientific name of the species is the Balaenicepes Rex. The species was known to both Egyptians and Arabs, but not classified until the 19th century.

The body of a shoe bill is covered with plumage blue-gray with darker slate gray flight feathers. The most well-known feature of this bird is its conspicuous beak that comes in straw-color with unusual gray markings. There is relatively shorter than other long-legged birds. When the shoe bills are born, they have small-sized bills, which is silver gray. The beak becomes more significant and noticeable when they become fully developed after 43 days. Shoe bills have a stiff neck, long legs, and broad wings.

Where do Shoe Bills Live?

The species of a shoe bill are distributed in freshwater swamps of central tropical Africa, southern Sudan, parts of eastern Congo, Uganda, Tanzania, and northern Zambia. Their habitat is often close to papyrus vegetation and lungfish.

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Shoe Bill Bird Size:

Shoe bill height ranges from 43 to 55 inches, and some species can reach as much as 60 inches.

The length of a shoe bill from tail to beak can range from 40 to 55 inches. Their wingspan measures 7 feet 7 inches to 8 feet 6 inches, and their wings can go for a length of 23 to 30 inches.

An adult shoe bill male weighs around 12 pounds, whereas the females can weigh about 11 pounds. Their average weight can range between 9 to 15 pounds.

What Do Shoe Bill Eat?

Shoe bills primarily feed on fish but are also considering a range of wetland vertebrates. The species prefer to eat marbled lungfish, Senegal Bichir, and catfish. Other animals eaten by a shoe bill are frogs, water snakes, and Nile and baby crocodiles. Other than this, the bird is rarely seen eating turtles, rodents, and small waterfowl.

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Shoe Bill Facts:

  • If you had not noticed from certain angles, shoe bills could appear like a dinosaur.
  • The flapping of a shoe bill is one of the slowest among other birds. When flying, they approximately flap 150 times per minute.
  • The species have the third-largest beak in the world that enables them to catch larger prey.
  • The razor-sharp edges of their beak allow them to decollate their prey quickly.
  • A shoe bill has often benefitted from the presence of a hippo, which disturbs fish in the water. The shoe bill can take advantage of this and strike.
  • A shoe bill is a kind of predator that often stands for a more extended period, motionless like a statue. Before killing its prey that comes within striking distance.
  • Though the species is very silent, but are known to clack their bills during mating or greeting. Which can usually sound like a machine gun.
  • Shoe bills have appeared in wall paintings and writings of the ancient Egyptians. It also has an old Arabic name, ‘Abu-Markub,’ which means the father of a slipper.
  • The demand for shoe bill birds is exceptionally high in private zoos, which make them the most expensive bird in the zoo trade.
  • Shoe bills are incredibly rare to see in the wild. The Tourist has to pay local guides to go on specialist shoe bill tours and safaris.
  • Shoe bills are solitary birds and come together only at the time of mating and taking care of the young ones.
  • Coupling is associated with the outbreak of the dry season. The nests are built in the middle of the swamp grasses.
  • After the gestation of 30 days, the females lay one to three eggs.
  • The young ones are born brown, and they are also not able to stand on their feet. 

Shoe Bill Predators:

The main predators of a shoe bill bird are crocodiles and humans.

The Shoe Bill Lifespan:

Shoe bills can survive more than 35 years in the wild.

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Shoe Bill Stork Endangered:

According to IUCN, the species are classified as vulnerable, with an estimated population between 5000 to 8000 individuals. The community is decreasing due to habitat loss, destruction of nests, increased hunting, and pet trade. The species is considered as one of the five most desirable birds in Africa by bird watchers.