Rare African Shoebill Chick


On December 25th, 2009 – for the first time in North America and the fourth time worldwide – a rare African shoebill stork chick hatched in captivity. And now, just a few months old, this healthy hatchling is growing rapidly and shedding light on the behaviors of this threatened avian species.

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source: Homer Dennowitz

Very few African shoebills live in captivity and less than 10,000 remain in the wild. They are large, darkly-hued birds, growing up to four feet tall. African shoebills have wide, colored bills, unwebbed feet and long legs. Although little is known about the species’ relatives and history, these birds share behaviors with herons and characteristics with pelicans.

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source: Robert La Follette

The new African shoebill parents at the Lowry Park Zoo created a nest on the ground alongside a water source. The breeding pair take turns watching over their female hatchling. She was named Binti – which means daughter in Swahili – by the zoo’s aviary team.

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source: Josh Carabello

African shoebills are generally a silent species, but the bird parents have been observed vocalizing with one another as a form of greeting at the nest. This type of “bill-clattering” features a quickly opening and closing of their beaks. Below is a photograph of Binti at sixty days, showcasing her rapid development.

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 source: Rachel Nelson

The zoo’s director of collections, Dr. Larry Killmar, remarked that the new Shoebill parents are a highly compatible pair, calling them “inseparable” and “attentive to each other and the chick.” There is hope that the happy pair will breed again this year, which offers exciting species conservation possibilities. Below a photograph of Binti at ninety days reveals her swift growth and matured plumes. 

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source: Jodi Kendall

Species research suggests that newborn African shoebill storks live in the nest for about 95-105 days. And while Binti is currently standing and walking, she has yet to spread her wings and soar.

Will the female African shoebill hatchling take flight this week? Many avian aficionados around the world are anxiously waiting to find out!

If you want to see more photographs of the African shoebill stork chick, visit this link.

Like birds? Check out waterfowl photos and information on backyard birding here.