The Saddle billed stork also known as Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis is notably large wading bird in the Ciconiidae stork family and is resident in the Sub Sahara of Africa including Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda where they are explored on birding safaris in Uganda, Senegal, Gambia, Chad and Côte d'Ivoire.
The Saddle billed stork is associated with the common Asian
black-necked stork which is member of the Ephippiorhynchus genus. The
saddle billed stork is a huge bird that features a great height of up to
150 cm and the body length of 142 cm and a wing span of 2.4–2.7 m. The
Male saddle billed stork is noted to be heavier than the female and
ranges from 5.1–7.52 kg with an average weight of 6.38 kg whereas the
female saddle billed stork features a weight of 5 – 6.84kg with an
average weight of 5.95kg.
The Saddle billed stork is the tallest of
all the storks but not the heaviest. It legs are very long with a tarsus
of up to 36.5cm while its long bill ranges from 27.3cm – 36cm. The two
sexes of the Saddle billed stork can be differentiated by the golden
yellow irises from the females and the golden brown irises and yellow
wattles for males as can be encountered on Uganda safaris
The Saddle billed stork is beautifully plumaged. It features black
neck, head, back, tail and wings while the rest of the body is white
along with primary flight feathers. The Juveniles feature brown grey in
their plumage. The enormous bill is red featuring a black band along
with a yellow frontal shield or the saddle. The feet and legs of this
bird are black featuring pink hooks. The Chest features a bare red skin
patch and this color darkens in the season for breeding.
the behavior, the Saddle billed Stork is noted to be silent apart from
bill cluttering at the nest. They fly with outstretched necks just like
other storks not like the heron that is retracted. During the flight,
the bill keeps dropping below the belly height which gives the bird a
unique appearance to those who view it for the first time including the
travelers on safari in Uganda. But for the expert birders, this enables them to easily distinguish it.
Regarding breeding, the saddle-billed stork tends to breed in forest
covered wetlands and also flood lands in the tropical lowland. It builds
a large, deep nest with sticks where it lays 1 or 2 eggs that weigh
about 146 g per egg. The Saddle billed stork do not create breeding
colonies and it is usually encountered in lone or pairs. The period for
incubation is 30 – 35 days along with other 70 – 100 days that the
chicks take before fledging
Regarding feeding, the saddle billed
stork feeds greatly on fish, crabs and frogs and can also feed on
reptiles and small birds. They make deliberate and strategic moves
during hunting like the larger herons.
Regarding conservation, the
Saddle billed stork are spread widely in the tropical Africa and are
listed under the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list
as Least Concern because their populations are relatively stable.