Scientifically referred to as Sagittarius serpentarius, the secretary bird is a large terrestrial dwelling bird of prey thriving in the savannah and open grassland of sub-Saharan Africa including the destination Uganda where it is often explored on Uganda birding safaris and tours.
secretary bird features its own family called Sagittariidae even though
it’s a member of Accipitriformes Order that includes many diurnal
raptors like hawks, kites, harriers and vultures. It derives its name
from the bath of long quill-like feathers which makes it appear like
traditional secretaries that had pens tucked behind their ears.
is a notable large bird marked with a body that is similar to that of
an eagle with long legs that make its height to reach 1.3m tall. The
secretary bird features a hooked bill and rounded wings with a wingspan
of 191 – 220cm. The weight ranges from 2.3 – 5kg. The tail of the
secretary bird features two (2) extended central feathers that stretch
beyond the feet during the flight. Its flight feathers and the thighs
are black and the sexes are almost similar as often viewed on birding safaris in Uganda.
diet, the Secretary bird hunts its prey on foot where the adult do the
hunting in pairs or at times in loose family flocks. It consumes
insects, mammals of various sizes ranging from mice to hare, crabs,
lizards, tortoises, snakes, bird eggs and young birds.
secretary birds live in monogamous pairs and mating occurs on ground or
in Acacia trees. The nests are constructed at 5 – 7m height on Acacia
trees and both sexes visit the nest for a range of six (6) months before
the egg laying occurs. The nest is often 30cm deep and 2.5m wide. Two
(2) – three (3) oval shaped pale green eggs in a range of 2 – 3 days are
laid and the incubation takes about 45 days after which they are
The Secretary birds are limited in range of the
sub-Saharan Africa and are recorded as non-migratory species but can at
times follow sources of food. Their range stretches from Mauritania to
the semi-arid lands of Somalia before sloping to extreme South African
end popularly known as the Cape of Good Hope.
The secretary birds are threatened by habitat loss but still thrive in a range of protected areas including the Uganda Safari National
Park of Murchison Falls National Park. It is listed as vulnerable on
the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature