Depending on your perspective, a shoebill either has the same goofy charm as the dodo or it looks like it might go on the attack any moment. What makes the aptly named shoebill so unique is its foot-long bill that resembles a Dutch clog. Tan with brown splotches, it’s five inches wide and has sharp edges and a sharp hook on the end. Its specialised bill allows the shoebill to grab large prey, including lungfish, tilapia, eels, and snakes. It even snacks on baby crocodiles and Nile monitor lizards. At first glance, shoebills don’t seem like they could be ambush predators. Reaching up to five feet tall with an eight-foot wingspan, shoebills have yellow eyes, gray feathers, white bellies, and a small feathered crest on the back of their heads. They also have long, thin legs with large feet that are ideal for walking on the vegetation in the freshwater marshes and swamps they inhabit in East Africa, from Ethiopia and South Sudan to Zambia. Shoebills can stay motionless for hours, so when a hapless lungfish comes up for air, it might not notice this lethal prehistoric-looking bird looming until it’s too late. The birds practice a hunting technique called “collapsing,” which involves lunging or falling forward on their prey.
Keywords to learn
Prehistoric: Relating to or denoting the period before written records
Lunge: A sudden forward thrust of the body, typically with an arm outstretched to attack someone or seize something
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Scientific Name:Balaeniceps rex.
Mass:11 pounds (females); 12 pounds (males).
Length:3.5 to five feet tall.
Region found:East Africa, from Ethiopia and South Sudan to Zambia.
Current population trend:Decreasing.
Sexual maturity:2-3 years.
Shoebills are weird and wonderful, and look strange, however they are also beautiful looking. Shoebills can be quite aggressive but not so much to humans, and are not dangerous, but keep your distance just in case, as they have large enough beaks to possibly bite.
Now that you know more about the Shoebill by learning the key data above, be sure also to check out the fun facts. When you are finished learning the facts, try answering the questions in the Q&A corner on the bottom right side of the page.
Download questions about the Shoebill here: Shoebill (answers are on this page)
Shoebill Fun Facts for Kids
- # 1. Shoebills are in a family all their own, though they were once classified as storks. They do share traits with storks and herons, like the long necks and legs characteristic of wading birds, though their closest relatives are the pelicans.
- # 2. Though they’re mainly silent, shoebills sometimes engage in bill-clattering, a sound made as a greeting and during nesting. They keep cool with a technique called gular fluttering—vibrating the throat muscles to dissipate heat. Chicks sometimes make hiccup-like sounds when they’re hungry.
- # 3. Shoebills reach maturity at three to four years old, and breeding pairs are monogamous.
- # 4. Sheobill females lay an average of two eggs at the end of the rainy season.
- # 5. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature estimates that there are only between 3,300 and 5,300 adult shoebills left in the world, and the population is going down.
- #1. Where does the Shoebill live?
- # 2. What is the average lifespan of the Shoebill?
- # 3. What is the population status of the Shoebill?
- # 4. What is the current population trend of the Shoebill?
- # 5. What do shoebills eat?