The Secretarybird – One of Africa’s Killer Birds

Don’t be fooled by its deceiving look, the Secretarybird is a skilled snake-hunter and is listed as one of Africa’s feared killer birds.


The Secretarybird (Sagittarius serpentarius) is a large, land-dwelling bird found throughout Africa. This feared Raptor inhabits savannah and open grassland. Also called “serpent eagle”, it is the only bird of prey that prefers walking than flying – taking to flight only when pursued.

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The Secretarybird can easily be identified by its prominent long legs, a broad black ‘crown-like’ feathers on the back of its neck, and a pair of long innermost tail feathers. Typically, it sports a grey to light-gray body plumage with spots of white in its belly and an all-out black flight feathers. Broad pink toes laced the powerful, heavily-scaled legs Adults are distinguishable with their featherless red face, curved beaks, and brown eyes.

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When fully grown, this killer bird averages 140 cm in length and weighs around 2.3 – 4.1 kg. It has a wingspan of about 2 m. Having the longest legs amongst Raptors, the Secretarybird has an odd way to pick its meal or drink – bending its legs in a squatting position.

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Secretarybirds pair for life.They do their courting and mating activities on the ground. Nests are built high up on Acacia trees, where females lay two oval, light green eggs that are incubated for 42 – 46 days. In captivity, Secretarybirds can live up to 20 years.

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The Secretarybird hunts for prey in pairs. Its diet includes snakes, rats, amphibians, small animals and large insects. In hunting bigger prey, it strikes or grab the prey using its hooked beak and tosses it into the air several times until it get stunned. Then pounding the prey to the ground until death and consume it.

One thought on “The Secretarybird – One of Africa’s Killer Birds

  1. Christine Ramsay

    A great post. So well researched and presented. Though I have heard of this bird I have never seen one before.

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