Sunday, October 16, 2011

Creature Feature: Marabou Stork.

Quick, tell us all you know about storks. If the media are to be believed, storks are kinda like herons, only pure white. They may or may not bring babies in little white bags. Overall, they're pretty harmless birds...

AAAH! AAAHH! What the hell is THAT?

That is a Marabou Stork (Leptoptilos crumeniferus). It is native to south-Saharan Africa, but most of the time, you will remember it as "that really ugly-looking bird" if it appears in a documentary on African wildlife. Like vultures, Marabou Storks are scavengers, explaining their rather menacing appearance, but they will also eat most small reptiles and birds if available. They are also called "undertaker birds."

If you have ever been in a fabric store, you have seen the word "marabou" before. "Marabou" describes the fuzzy, fluffy feathers that one sometimes sees in yard-long feather boas. Chances are that no storks were harmed in the making of your feather boas, but real marabou down is sometimes used in fishing lures and (probably expensive) fashion items.

Marabou Storks are some of the largest birds that aren't ratites. They stand around 5 feet tall, which is not comforting when walking alongside the Grim Reaper in bird form. Their dark wings spread almost as wide as those of the Andean Condor - both in the range of 10-10.5 feet. Bottom line: This is one big, scary bird that will make sure you never see storks the same way again.

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