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The Secretarybird: Eagle on Stilts

These African raptors are like no other bird of prey on earth
© Nik Borrow CC View Large

The Secretarybird of sub-Saharan Africa looks like a slim eagle set on the long, slender legs of a crane. Secretarybirds can fly but prefer to hunt on foot, walking over 20 miles a day and dispatching their prey with powerful kicks of their taloned feet.

Full Transcript



Secretarybird: Eagle on Stilts

Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote.

[Secretarybird vocalization]

Meet the Secretarybird, a bird of prey like no other on earth.

Picture if you can a slim eagle, striding through the grasslands of sub-Saharan Africa on tall, slender legs like those of a crane.

Standing four feet tall, the Secretarybird is beautiful: feathered in silver, set off by black wings and leggings. The face is half covered in bright red skin. Beyond the black tail extend two long white plumes tipped in black. And from the back of the head dangles a spray of long black feathers.

[Secretarybird vocalization]

Utterly fantastic in appearance, these specialized raptors are also serious carnivores. Secretarybirds track down their prey not on the wing but on foot, often walking more than 20 miles a day.

[Secretarybird vocalization]

They hunt rodents, snakes, insects, lizards, and other animals, dispatching them by stamping repeatedly with rapid, powerful kicks of their talons.

"Secretary" in the bird's name might follow from its black head quills, reminiscent of 19th century human secretaries with black quill pens. But more probably, "secretary" derives from the Arabic word for "hunter bird."

[Secretarybird vocalization]

For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.

Bird sounds provided by the Xeno-canto Foundation. Feature sound XC391856 Secretary Bird recorded by Niall Perrins. Background sound XC280188 Harlequin Quail recorded by P Boesman.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Managing Producer: Jason Saul
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
© 2018 Tune In to  May 2018/2019   Narrator: Michael Stein

ID#       secretarybird-01-2018-05-29  secretarybird-01         


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