Why shoebills are the most menacing birds

By: Mae Skold

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Shoebills are human sized birds native to Africa. They can have up to a 7 foot wingspan and be up to 4 feet tall but their most distinctive feature would have to be their beak that can grow up to a foot long. The call, this bird’s beak, allows them to make is what considers them the most menacing bird of all.

The machine gun-like sound these birds emit terrorizes those who come across them in their native land of central Africa. They can often be sighted on the riverbanks of the Congo River hunting for fish. This complicates fisherman’s lives as the birds are very territorial. Locals warn people about their aggressive tendencies and advise that when hearing their bill-clattering sound to leave the area.

When spotted, they are known to look almost statue-like. If approached too intimately their statue-like character will break and they lunge with the beak. Because they have such long legs and beaks, their lunge is very powerful and people can be reached from farther away than you may think. Because of this, shoebills are responsible for 2-3 human deaths every year.

When left alone, these birds lead a normal life on the riverbanks of Africa. They feed on catfish and lungfish which are mainly fed to the young.

Laying season is in the spring, so after laying 2-3 eggs, the parent’s babies can be independent by the following fall. It takes the babies about 3 years to reproduce and continue the cycle of life.

Though shoebills can be a menace to their native African communities, when left alone they are a thriving species that contribute to the native wildlife of Central Africa. As long as their habitat is undisturbed, shoebills and humans can live in harmony.

For more information, please visit:

  • “Shoebill Stork.” biologydictionary.net/shoebill-stork/

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