The pearl of Africa though with a variety of wild animals in its major national parks also has unique bird species and it’s most times called the birders haven. Uganda has over 1000 bird species including the amazing shoebill stork that lives in Uganda’s wetlands.
This giant headed bird was once mistaken to be close to the storks however the shoebill has an ability to fly with its neck drawn back meaning that its instead close to the herons and pelicans.
At a glance, the shoebill stork is between 120 to 140 centimeters tall with divided toes that are about 18.5 centimeters long. The shoebill stork has a beak that is about 20 centimeters in length and width, which makes it the bird with the largest beak on the planet. Grown shoebill storks are whitish and bluish-grey and the young ones are a little dark brown. Female shoebill storks are however somehow smaller than their male counterparts.
The shoebill storks mainly live in wet marshy papyrus swamp vegetation and mostly feeds at night as they stand still and quickly trap their prey strongly and steadily. These unique animals most times depend aquatic animals like frogs, snakes, turtles, lizards, fish especially lung fish and many other animals that they can engulf in their beaks.
Though the shoebill storks usually live in swampy areas, they always stay in the more open areas in order to easily balance as they take down their prey and take off from the ground.
These unique birds usually spend most of their times alone as individuals searching for food. They only associate with each other towards the breeding seasons especially around the months of April to June as they court the females ahead of their mating times. During the mating time, the female shoebill lays only about 2 or 3 eggs in the nest and then both the male and female shoebills start taking good care of the eggs until they hatch after about a month. In the hot seasons with high temperatures, the shoebills collect water in their beaks and spit it over the eggs in order to cool them down. Most times after hatching only one shoebill stork chick survives and can grow up to 30 years.
Since they like being alone and less disturbed, shoebills can easily abandon their eggs or chicks in case of any interference and most times keep avoiding humans as they can.
Best Places To View The Shoebill Stork
The shoebill stork can be viewed in Uganda’s wetlands around the Murchison falls riverbanks, lake Kyoga, in queen Elizabeth national park around lake Kikorongo, Mabamba and Makanaga swamps in Mpigi district on the shores of lake victoria as it relaxes in its natural habitant and ready to hunt.
Shoebill storks are among the endangered bird species on the planet mainly because of their less reproduction and survival chances. The local people who today clear most swamps to create land for agriculture and even settlement also encroach their habitant on and around Lake Opeta and Lake Bisina; the local people for food hunt shoebills.
Any tourist on a birding safari in Uganda does not only view the rare shoebill stork but also gets chances of viewing other unique birds that the pearl has to offer. They range from eagles, marabou storks, parrots, king fishers, egrets, hornbills, grey crowned cranes, jacanas, mountain warblers, falcons and many others that can be seen in the various ramsar sites evenly distributed country wide, in forests while others can be seen flying in the air.
Birding in Uganda can be done at any time of the year but for clear views, binoculars are recommended. Uganda through the Uganda birding safari guides association has a number of birding tour guides well equipped with the necessary information about the birds in the country and are always willing to share it with an interested tourist.