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Golden Conure (Guaruba guarouba)

Golden Conure (Guaruba guarouba)

The Golden Parakeet or Golden Conure, (Guaruba guarouba), is a medium-size golden yellow Neotropical parrot native to the Amazon basin of interior northern Brazil.

Its plumage is mostly bright yellow, hence its common name, but it also possesses green remiges. It lives in the drier, upland rainforests in Amazonian Brazil, and is threatened by deforestation and flooding, and also by the now-illegal trapping of wild individuals for the pet trade. It is listed on CITES appendix I.

German ornithologist Georg Marcgraf first described the bird, called ‘Guaruba’ in his expedition to Dutch Brazil in 1638. Its Portuguese and indigenous name, ‘Ararajuba,’ means small yellow macaw. In aviculture, it is sometimes known as the Queen of Bavaria Conure.

Formerly classified as Aratinga guarouba, it is now a species in the monotypic genus Guaruba, one of numerous genera of New World long-tailed parrots in tribe Arini, which also includes the Central and South American macaws. Tribe Arini together with the Amazonian parrots and a few miscellaneous genera make up subfamily Arinae of Neotropical parrots in family Psittacidae of true parrots.

The specific name guarouba (alternately guaruba) is derived from Old Tupi: guará, small bird; and Old Tupi: yuba, yellow; hence “small yellow bird”. The different spellings of the genus and species names results from the different spellings used by Lesson and Gmelin when they postulated the taxons. The taxonomic convention is to retain the names as spelled by the original authorities.

Molecular studies show that Guaruba and Diopsittaca (Red-shouldered Macaw) are sister genera. It is also closely related to Leptosittaca branicki Golden-plumed Parakeet.

The Golden Parakeet is 34 cm (13 in) long and mainly yellow with green in outer wings and with an all-yellow tail. It has a large horn-coloured beak, pale-pink bare eye-rings, brown irises, and pink legs. Male and female have identical external appearance. Juveniles are duller and have less yellow and more green plumage than the adults. The juvenile’s head and neck are mostly green, the back is green and yellow, the upper side of tail is mostly green, the breast is greenish, the eye-rings are pale-grey, and the legs are brown.

Its range is estimated to be limited to approx. 174,000sq.km. between the Tocantins, lower Xingu and Tapajós rivers in the Amazon basin south of the Amazon River in the state of Pará, northern Brazil. There are additional records from adjacent northern Maranhão. The birds in a 1986 study used two different habitats during the year; during the non-breeding season, which coincided with the dry season, they occupied the tall forest. During the breeding season they left the tall forest and entered open areas on the edge of the forest such as fields used in agriculture.

Golden Parakeets are a sociable species, living, feeding, sleeping and even breeding together. They eat fruits, flowers, buds, seeds, and cultured maize in the wild. These include the seed of Croton matouensis, which is related to the castor oil plant; Muruci fruit (Byrsonima crispa); mangoes; and Açaí fruits.

The Golden Parakeet has a breeding system that is almost unique amongst parrots, as pairs are aided by a number of helpers which aid in the raising of the young. This behavior is less common with parakeets in captivity, who often abandon their young after three weeks.

Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) AKA “Woody Woodpecker”

Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) AKA "Woody Woodpecker"

The Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) AKA “Woody Woodpecker”, is a small or medium-sized woodpecker from temperate North America. Their breeding habitat is open country across southern Canada and the eastern-central United States.

The Red-headed Woodpecker was one of the many species originally described by Linnaeus in his 18th-century work Systema Naturae.[ The specific epithet is derived from the Ancient Greek words erythros ‘red’ and kephalos ‘head’.

Adults are strikingly tri-colored, with a black back and tail and a red head and neck. Their underparts are mainly white. The wings are black with white secondary remiges. Adult males and females are identical in plumage. Juveniles have very similar markings, but have an all grey head. Non-birders may often mistakenly identify Red-bellied Woodpeckers as Red-headeds, whose range overlaps somewhat with that of the Red-headed Woodpecker. While Red-bellied Woodpeckers have some bright red on the backs of their necks and heads, Red-headed Woodpeckers have a much deeper red that covers their entire heads and necks, as well as a dramatically different overall plumage pattern.

These are mid-sized woodpeckers. Both sexes measure from 19 to 25 cm (7.5 to 9.8 in) in length, with a wingspan of 42.5 cm (16.7 in). They weigh from 56 to 97 g (2.0 to 3.4 oz) with an average of 76 g (2.7 oz). Each wing measures 12.7–15 cm (5.0–5.9 in), the tail measures 6.6–8.5 cm (2.6–3.3 in), the bill measures 2.1–3 cm (0.83–1.18 in) and the tarsus measures 1.9–2.5 cm (0.75–0.98 in). The maximum longevity in the wild is 9.9 years.

They give a tchur-tchur call or drum on territory.

These birds fly to catch insects in the air or on the ground, forage on trees or gather and store nuts. They are omnivorous, eating insects, seeds, fruits, berries, nuts, and occasionally even the eggs of other birds. About two thirds of their diet is made up of plants. They nest in a cavity in a dead tree, utility pole, or a dead part of a tree that is between 2.45 and 24.5 m (8.0 and 80.4 ft) above the ground. They lay 4 to 7 eggs in early May which areincubated for two weeks. Two broods can be raised in a single nesting season. Northern birds migrate to the southern parts of the range, with most having arrived on the breeding range by late April, and having left for winter quarters by late October; southern birds are often permanent residents.

The Red-headed Woodpecker is a once common but declining bird species found in southern Canada and east-central United States. Consistent long-term population declines have resulted in Red-headed Woodpecker’s threatened status in Canada and several states in the US. This has led to an immediate need for conservation, which, so far, has been the focus of limited studies. Throughout most of its range it inhabits areas that have been heavily altered by humans. Factors suggested for Red-headed Woodpecker declines include: loss of overall habitat and, within habitats, standing dead wood required for nest sites,[11] limitations of food supply,[12] and possible nest-site competition with other cavity nesters such as European Starlings or Red-bellied Woodpeckers.[13][14] Unfortunately few of these factors have been substantiated.

Of the 600 Canadian Important Bird Areas only seven report the Red-headed Woodpecker in their area: Cabot Head, Ontario on the Georgian Bay side of the tip of Bruce Peninsula; Carden Plain, Ontario east of Lake Simcoe;Long Point Peninsula and Marshes, Ontario along Lake Erie near London, Ontario; Point Abino, Ontario on Lake Erie near Niagara Falls; Port Franks Forested Dunes, Ontario northeast of Sarnia on Lake Huron; Kinosota/Leifur, Manitoba at the northwest side of Lake Manitoba south of the Narrows and east of Riding Mountain National Park; and along South Saskatchewan River from Empress, Alberta to Lancer Ferry in Saskatchewan.

In the 1940s, Universal Studios popularized a television cartoon series about a red-headed woodpecker named “Woody Woodpecker,” created by Walter Lantz. It remained in production until 1972 and continued thereafter in re-runs, and in a late-1990s revival for the Fox network.

In 1996, the United States Postal Service issued a 2-cent postage stamp depicting a perched Red-headed Woodpecker. The stamp was discontinued at some time thereafter, but re-issued in 1999 and remained available for purchase until 2006

Long-tailed Broadbill (Psarisomus dalhousiae)

Long-tailed Broadbill (Psarisomus dalhousiae)

The Long-tailed Broadbill (Psarisomus dalhousiae) is a species of broadbill that is found in the Himalayas, extending east through Northeastern India to Southeast Asia. It is the only bird in the genus Psarisomus. The Long-tailed Broadbill is about 25 cm (10 inches) in length and weighs between 50 and 60 grams. It can be identified by its shrill call.

The Long-tailed Broadbill is a forest bird that lives on insects. It is very sociable and normally travels in large, noisy parties except during the mating season. It builds a pear-shaped nest in a tree. The female usually lays between 5 and 6 eggs that are incubated by both sexes; both sexes also help to feed the young.

The scientific name commemorates Christina Broun, Countess of Dalhousie (1786–1839), wife of George Ramsay, 9th Earl of Dalhousie.

Yellow Wattlebird (Anthochaera paradoxa)

Yellow Wattlebird (Anthochaera paradoxa)

The Yellow Wattlebird (Anthochaera paradoxa) is a species of bird in the Meliphagidae family. Other names include the Long or Tasmanian Wattlebird.

The Yellow Wattlebird is the largest of the honeyeaters,[3] and is endemic to Tasmania. They are usually 375–450 millimetres (15–18 in) long.[2] They are named for the wattles in the corners of their mouths.[2] Yellow Wattlebirds are slim birds with a short, strong bill. They are dark-coloured forest birds that somewhat resemble Slandering Grackles. They have a white face and black-streaked crown. They also have a long, pendulous yellow-orange wattle. The wattle becomes brighter during the breeding season. They have dark wings and a yellow belly, whereas the upperparts are grey to dusky brown. The female Yellow Wattlebird is much smaller than the male. The young Yellow Wattlebirds have much smaller wattles, a paler head and a browner underbelly than the adult birds. Yellow Wattlebirds are active and acrobatic with a strong flight. They are fairly tame birds and often enter gardens looking for food.

The Yellow Wattlebird is similar in appearance to the Little Wattlebird and the Red Wattlebird.

Their Call is Harsh, raucous, often been compared to a person coughing or vomiting.

Yellow Wattlebirds nest in breeding pairs and aggressively defend their territories from other birds. The nest of the yellow wattlebird is made by the female alone, and is a large, open saucer-shaped structure made of twigs and bark that are bound by wool. The inside of the nest is lined with wool and grass. The nests can be up to 13 centimetres (5.1 in) high and are found in trees or shrubs. Yellow Wattlebirds lay 2–3 eggs that are salmon-red, spotted and blotched red-brown, purplish red and blue-grey. Both the males and females incubate the egg and feed the young.

Yellow Wattlebirds live in a variety of habitats including both dry and wet forests and from sea level to the subalpine zone. They live in coastal heaths, forests and gardens near Eucalyptus trees. They also can be found in mountain shrubberies and open woodlands, particularly those dominated by Banksia. They have also been known to be found on golf courses, orchards, parks and gardens.

Yellow Wattlebirds are common in Tasmania, especially in the eastern and central areas. They are also found on King Island and two sightings have been recorded on the southern Mornington Peninsula in Victoria.

Yellow Wattlebirds feed on the nectar of eucalypts and banksias, fruit, insects, spiders, honeydew and manna (crystallised plant sap). They forage from all levels of the canopy from the ground to the top of the trees. However, the blossoming of eucalyptus trees can be highly irregular in time and place causing considerable changes from year to year in the breeding distribution of Yellow Wattlebirds, which rely on the nectar from the eucalyptus trees as a main source of food. Therefore, the most likely threat to the Yellow Wattlebird is unusual climatic conditions that can reduce food availability suddenly. Yellow Wattlebirds can pollinate eucalyptus trees by carrying pollen in their bills or on the feathers of their heads.

Snowcap (Microchera albocoronata)

Snowcap (Microchera albocoronata)

The Snowcap (Microchera albocoronata) is a very small hummingbird that weighs less than a penny. It is the only member of the genus Microchera.

This is a tiny hummingbird, 6.5 cm long and 2.5 g in weight, with a short black bill and black legs. The adult male Snowcap is unmistakable. It has the shining white cap which gives this species its English and scientific names, a deep purple body, and white outer tail feathers. The adult female is bronze-green above, dull white below, and has dull white outer tail feathers. She has more white below than other female hummingbirds. Juvenile Snowcaps resemble the adult female, but are duller, have greyer underparts, and bronzed central tail feathers. The purple plumage of young males starts on the underparts as a striking dark central line.

The nest is a small cup of plant down and cobwebs decorated with green moss or lichen, which is attached to a small twig or vine. The two white elongated eggs are incubated for just over two weeks, and the female feeds the young on regurgitated nectar and insects.

The male Snowcap defends his feeding territory against others of the same species, but is readily displaced by larger hummingbirds. They usually visit small flowers of vines, trees and epiphytesfor nectar, and also take some insects, especially when feeding young.

The call of this species is a high-pitched tsip, and the male’s song is a warbling tsitsup tsitsup tsitsup tsuu ttsee.

It is a resident breeder in Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and western Panama. Its habitat is the canopy and edges of wet forest, and it will also use adjacent more open woodland. It occurs mainly on the Caribbean mountain slopes, breeding mainly at heights of 300–800 m. After breeding, most descend to the adjacent lowlands, but some may wander up to heights of 1400 m.

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)

The Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) is a large, conspicuous water kingfisher, the only member of that group commonly found in the northern United States and Canada. It is depicted on the 1986 series Canadian $5 note. All kingfishers were formerly placed in one family, Alcedinidae, but recent research suggests that this should be divided into three. All six New World kingfishers, together with three Old World species, make up the new family Cerylidae.

The belted kingfisher is a stocky, medium-sized bird that measures between 28–35 cm (11–14 in) in length with a wingspan of between 48–58 cm (19–23 in). This kingfisher can weigh from 113 to 178 g (4.0 to 6.3 oz). The adult female averages slightly larger than the adult male as well as more brightly colored.

This species has a large head with a shaggy crest. Its long, heavy bill is black with a grey base. These features are common in many kingfisher species. This kingfisher shows sexual dimorphism, with the female more brightly coloured than the male. Both sexes have a slate blue head, large white collar, a large blue band on the breast, and white underparts. The back and wings are slate blue with black feather tips with little white dots. The female features a rufous band across the upper belly that extends down the flanks. Juveniles of this species are similar to adults, but both sexes feature the rufous band on the upper belly. Juvenile males will have a rufous band that is somewhat mottled while the band on females will be much thinner than that on adult females.

The Megaceryle large green kingfishers were formerly placed in Ceryle with the pied kingfisher, but the latter is closer to the Chloroceryle American green kingfishers. The belted kingfisher’s closest living relative is the ringed kingfisher(M. torquata), and these two in all probability originated from an African Megaceryle which colonized the Americas.

This bird’s breeding habitat is near inland bodies of waters or coasts across most of Canada, Alaska and the United States. They migrate from the northern parts of its range to the southern United States, Mexico, Central America, theWest Indies and northern South America in winter. During migration it may stray far from land; the species is recorded as an accidental visitor on oceanic islands such as Clarion,[6] and has occurred as an extremely rare vagrant in Greenland, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, and the United Kingdom.

It leaves northern parts of its range when the water freezes; in warmer areas it is a permanent resident. A few individuals may linger in the north even in the coldest winters except in the Arctic, if there are remaining open bodies of water.

The belted kingfisher is often seen perched prominently on trees, posts, or other suitable “watchpoints” close to water before plunging in head first after its fish prey. They also eat amphibians, small crustaceans, insects, small mammals and reptiles. This bird nests in a horizontal tunnel made in a river bank or sand bank and excavated by both parents. The female lays five to eight eggs and both adults incubate the eggs and feed the young.

The nest of the belted kingfisher is a long tunnel and often slopes uphill. One possible reason for the uphill slope is in the case of flooding the chicks will be able to survive in the air pocket formed by the elevated end of the tunnel.

African Emerald Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx cupreus

African Emerald Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx cupreus

The African Emerald Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx cupreus) is a species of cuckoo in the Cuculidae family. It is found in Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

In Afrikaans, it is known as the mooimeisie, or “pretty girl”.
In general terms, the African Emerald Cuckoo favors light and densely wooded forests with Mopane trees – occasionally, however, they are seen in urban settings, such as parks, gardens and vacated buildings.

Throughout West Africa, this cuckoo can be seen in lowland areas.
In Abyssinia it inhabits forest areas from 2000 to more than 3000m.
In Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, it is mostly confined to the intermediate altitudes (1000 to 2000m).
In eastern Africa it can usually be found in the lower country areas – specifically 700 to 1000m in Malawi.
In Kwazulu-Natal, this species is found in forest areas.
In Mozambique it is often seen in thorn and baobab country.
The African Emerald Cuckoo averages 21 to 23 cm (8.3 to 9.1 inches) in length and weighs around 35 grams 1.2 ounces. It has a short, slim bill and brown-orange eyes. Males have an overall brilliant metallic green plumage, except for the bright yellow lower breast and abdomen. The tail feathers are tipped with white. Females are brown above and barred with green and white below. Because of the mainly green plumage, the African Emerald Cuckoo is well camouflaged in the foliage and is usually only heard rather than seen.

The African Emerald Cuckoo doesn’t build its own nest nor does it raise its young. The hen lays her eggs in the nests of other birds, specifically they use the nests of Yellow-whiskered Bulbuls, Bee Eaters, Olive bush Shrikes or Puffback Shrikes. They invade the nest – either placing the eggs in the nest when the parents are foraging for food or forcing them off the nest while they are sitting in it. Once the hen is in the nest she will toss out any existing eggs and lay her own. The true occupants of the nest will come back to their nest and incubate the cuckoo egg(s) and raise any young as their own. After hatching, the cuckoo chick often pushes the other chicks or eggs out of the nest.

The Emerald Cuckoo feeds on insects, such as butterflies, caterpillars, locusts and ants.

The Emerald Cuckoo emits a clear four-note call.

The African Emerald Cuckoo is also known as the Emerald Cuckoo, Mooimeisie [Afrikaans], Intananja (Xhosa), uBantwanyana (Zulu), Smaragdkoekoek (Dutch), Smaragdkuckuck (German), Coucou foliotocol (French), Cuculo smeraldino africano (Italian), Cuclillo esmeralda africano, Cucu esmeralda (Spanish), as well as Cuco-esmeraldino (Portuguese).

Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus)

Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus)

The Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus) is a large tyrant flycatcher. This bird breeds from southern Arizona and the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas in the USA through Central America, South America as far as south as central Argentina and western Peru, and on Trinidad and Tobago. Birds from the northernmost and southern breeding areas migrate to warmer parts of the range after breeding.

An adult Tropical Kingbird is 22 cm (8.7 in) long and weighs 39 g (1.4 oz). The head is pale grey, with a darker eye mask, an orange crown stripe, and a heavy grey bill. The back is greyish-green, and the wing and forked tail are brown. The throat is pale grey, becoming olive on the breast, with the rest of the underparts being yellow. The sexes are similar, but young birds have pale buff edges on the wing coverts.

The call is a high-pitched twittering trill, tree-e-e-e-e-e-e, with a more complex version sung by the male at dawn.

Their breeding habitat is semi-open areas with trees and shrubs, including gardens and roadsides. Tropical Kingbirds like to observe their surroundings from a prominent open perch, usually high in a tree, undertaking long sally flights to acrobatically catch insects in mid-air, sometimes hovering to pick food off vegetation. They also eat some fruit from such diverse species as Tamanqueiro (Alchornea glandulosa), the Annonaceae, Cymbopetalum mayanum andGumbo-limbo (Bursera simaruba); foraging for these even in disturbed habitat. As they keep mainly to the upper levels of trees, they find little profit in following mixed-species feeding flocks in the understory.

These birds aggressively defend their territory against intruders, even much larger birds such as Magnificent Frigatebirds, toucans, caracaras or hawks. In a study in Parque Nacional de La Macarena of Colombia, parasitism bymicrofilariae and trypanosomas (presumably T. everetti) was infrequently recorded in Tropical Kindbirds.

They make a flimsy cup nest in a tree. The female incubates the typical clutch of two or three cream-colored eggs, which are marked with reddish-brown, for 16 days, with about 18–19 further days to fledging.

Widespread, common and adapatable, the Tropical Kingbird is not considered a threatened species by the IUCN.

Splendid Fairywren (Malurus splendens)

Splendid Fairywren (Malurus splendens)

The Splendid Fairywren (Malurus splendens), also known simply as the Splendid Wren or more colloquially in Western Australia as the Blue Wren, is a passerine bird of the Maluridae family. It is found across much of the Australian continent from central-western New South Wales and southwestern Queensland over to coastal Western Australia. It inhabits predominantly arid and semi-arid regions. Exhibiting a high degree of sexual dimorphism, the male in breeding plumage is a small, long-tailed bird of predominantly bright blue and black colouration. Non-breeding males, females and juveniles are predominantly grey-brown in colour; this gave the early impression that males were polygamous as all dull-coloured birds were taken for females. It comprises several similar all-blue and black subspecies that were originally considered separate species.

Like other fairywrens, the Splendid Fairywren is notable for several peculiar behavioural characteristics; birds are socially monogamous and sexually promiscuous, meaning that although they form pairs between one male and one female, each partner will mate with other individuals and even assist in raising the young from such trysts. Male wrens pluck pink or purple petals and display them to females as part of a courtship display.

The habitat of the Splendid Fairywren ranges from forest to dry scrub, generally with ample vegetation for shelter. Unlike the eastern Superb Fairywren, it has not adapted well to human occupation of the landscape and has disappeared from some urbanised areas. The Splendid Fairywren mainly eats insects and supplements its diet with seeds.

The Splendid Fairywren is one of 12 species of the genus Malurus, commonly known as fairywrens, found in Australia and lowland New Guinea. Within the genus it is most closely related to the Superb Fairywren. These two “Blue wrens” are closely related to the Purple-crowned Fairywren of north-western Australia.

The Splendid Fairywren is a small, long-tailed bird 14 cm (5.5 in) long. Exhibiting a high degree of sexual dimorphism, the breeding male is distinctive with a bright blue forehead and ear coverts, a violet throat and deeper rich blue back wings, chest and tail with a black bill, eye band and chest band. The blue breeding plumage of the male is often referred to as nuptial plumage. The non-breeding male is brown with blue in the wings and a bluish tail. The female resembles the non-breeding male but has a chestnut bill and eye-patch. Immature males will moult into breeding plumage the first breeding season after hatching, though this may be incomplete with residual brownish plumage and may take another year or two to perfect. Both sexes moult in autumn after breeding, with males assuming an eclipse non-breeding plumage. They will moult again into nuptial plumage in winter or spring. Some older males have remained blue all year, moulting directly from one year’s nuptial plumage to the next. Breeding males’ blue plumage, particularly the ear-coverts, is highly iridescent due to the flattened and twisted surface of the barbules.[24] The blue plumage also reflects ultraviolet light strongly, and so may be even more prominent to other fairywrens, whose colour vision extends into this part of the spectrum.[25] The call is described as a gushing reel;[20] this is harsher and louder than other fairywrens and varies from individual to individual. A soft single trrt serves as a contact call within a foraging group, while the alarm call is a tsit. Cuckoos and other intruders may be greeted with a threat posture and churring threat. Females emit a purr while brooding.

The Splendid Fairywren is widely distributed in the arid and semi-arid zones of Australia. Habitat is typically dry and shrubby; mulga and mallee in drier parts of the country and forested areas in the southwest. The western subspecies splendens and eastern Black-backed Fairywren (subspecies melanotus) are largely sedentary, although the Turquoise Fairywren (subspecies musgravei) is thought to be partially nomadic. Unlike the eastern Superb Fairywren, the Splendid Fairywren has not adapted well to human occupation of the landscape and has disappeared from some urbanised areas. Forestry plantations of pine (Pinus spp.) and eucalypts are also unsuitable as they lack undergrowth.

Secretary Bird (Sagittarius serpentarius)

Secretary Bird (Sagittarius serpentarius)

The Secretarybird or Secretary Bird (Sagittarius serpentarius) is a very large, mostly terrestrial bird of prey. Endemic to Africa, it is usually found in the open grasslands and savannah of the sub-Saharan region. Although a member of the order Accipitriformes, which also includes many other diurnal raptors such as kites, buzzards, vultures, and harriers, it is given its own family, Sagittariidae. It appears on the coats of arms of Sudan and South Africa.

The Secretarybird is instantly recognizable as having an eagle-like body on crane-like legs which increases the bird’s height to as much as 1.3 m (4 ft) tall. This bird has an eagle-like head with a hooked bill, but has rounded wings. Body weight can range from 2.3 to 4.6 kg (5.1 to 10.1 lb) and height is 90–137 cm (35–54 in). Total length from 112 to 152 cm (44 to 60 in) and the wingspan is 191–220 cm (75–87 in). The tarsus of the secretarybird averages 31 cm (12 in) and the tail is 57–85 cm (22–33 in), both of which factor into making them both taller and longer than any other species of raptor. The neck is not especially long, and can only be lowered down to the inter-tarsal joint, so birds reaching down to the ground or drinking must stoop to do so.

From a distance or in flight it resembles a crane more than a bird of prey. The tail has two elongated central feathers that extend beyond the feet during flight, as well as long flat plumage creating a posterior crest.[9]Secretarybird flight feathers and thighs are black, while most of the coverts are grey with some being white. Sexes look similar to one another as the species exhibits very little sexual dimorphism, although the male has longer head plumes and tail feathers. Adults have a featherless red face as opposed to the yellow facial skin of the young.

Secretarybirds are endemic to Sub-Saharan Africa and are non-migratory, though they may follow food sources. Their range extends from Mauritania to Somalia and south to the Cape of Good Hope.[9] These birds are also found at a variety of elevations, from the coastal plains to the highlands. Secretarybirds prefer open grasslands and savannas rather than forests and dense shrubbery which may impede their cursorial existence. While the birds roost on the localAcacia trees at night, they spend much of the day on the ground, returning to roosting sites just before dark.

Unlike most birds of prey, the Secretarybird is largely terrestrial, hunting its prey on foot. Adults hunt in pairs and sometimes as loose familial flocks, stalking through the habitat with long strides. Prey may consist of insects, mammalsranging in size from mice to hares and mongoose, crabs, lizards, snakes, tortoises, young birds, bird eggs, and sometimes dead animals killed in grass or bush fires. Larger herbivores are not generally hunted, although there are some reports of Secretarybirds killing young gazelles. The importance of snakes in the diet has been exaggerated in the past, although they can be locally important and venomous species such as adders and cobras are regularly among the types of snake preyed upon.

Prey is often discovered by the Secretarybirds via stomping on clumps of vegetation, which then flushes prey for them to capture. It also waits near fires, eating anything it can that is trying to escape. They can either catch prey by chasing it and striking with the bill and swallowing (usually with small prey), or stamping on prey until it is rendered stunned or unconscious enough to swallow.[9] Studies of this latter strategy have helped reconstruct the possible feeding mechanisms employed by the gigantic ‘terror birds’ that lived between sixty and five million years ago.[19]Larger or dangerous prey, such as venomous snakes, are instead stunned or killed by the bird jumping onto their backs, at which point they will try to snap their necks or backs. There are some reports that, when capturing snakes, the Secretarybirds will take flight with their prey and then drop them to their death, although this has not been verified. Even with larger prey, food is generally swallowed whole through the birds’ considerable gape. Occasionally, like other raptors, they will tear apart prey with their feet before consuming it.

Young are fed liquefied and regurgitated insects directly by the male or female parent and are eventually weaned to small mammals and reptile fragments regurgitated onto the nest itself. The above foodstuffs are originally stored in the crop of the adults.

In hunting and feeding on small animals and arthropods on the ground and in tall grass or scrub, Secretary Birds occupy an ecological niche similar to that occupied by peafowl in South and Southeast Asia, roadrunners in North andCentral America and seriemas in South America.

Secretarybirds often use kicks to incapacitate and kill their prey, with the bird’s sharp claws piercing the victim’s body. Their kicks are incredibly powerful; they are capable of shattering a human’s hand with a single kick.

Secretarybirds associate in monogamous pairs. During courtship, they exhibit a nuptial display by soaring high with undulating flight patterns and calling with guttural croaking. Males and females can also perform a grounded display by chasing each other with their wings up and back, much like the way they chase prey. They usually mate on the ground, although some do so in Acacia trees. Secretarybirds will stay close to their mate even if their chick has already left.

Nests are built at a height of 5–7 m (15–20 feet) on Acacia trees. Both the male and female visit the nest site for almost half a year before egg laying takes place. The nest is around 2.5 m (eight feet) wide and 30 cm (one foot) deep, and is constructed as a relatively flat basin of sticks.

Secretarybirds lay two to three oval, pale-green eggs over the course of two to three days, although the third egg is most often unfertilised.[citation needed] These eggs are incubated primarily by the female for 45 days until they hatch. The Secretarybirds are facultatively fratricidal. There are conflicting opinions on this phenomenon also called cainism—”No evidence [exist] of sibling aggression, but youngest in brood of 3 almost always dies of starvation…”

The downy young can feed autonomously after 40 days, although the parents still feed the young after that time. Both the parents feed the young. At 60 days, the young start to flap their wings, and by day 65–80 are able to fledge. Fledging is accomplished by jumping out of the nest or using a semi-controlled fall via fervent wing flapping to the ground. After this time, the young are quickly taught how to hunt through expeditions with their parents and are considered independent soon after.