Shoebill Stork

Whether it was a pet or a wild animal, we focused on all of them. So, today we’ll talk about the Shoebill Stork. This tall bird has a fantastic-looking bill. Aside from that, they have a lot of interesting characteristics. As a result, read this article to learn everything there is to know about this bird.


  • Shoebill storks, sometimes known as whale-headed storks, are found only in Africa’s east-central region.
  • It is a tall bird.
  • Adults are mostly grey, whereas youngsters are browner.
  • The most distinguishing feature of shoebill storks is their bill, which resembles a wooden shoe.
  • The eyes are large, yellowish or grayish-white in hue, and they are yellowish or grayish-white in color.
  • The legs are long and dark in color. The toes are exceptionally long and fully separated from one another, with no webbing in between.

Second Name

  • It is also known as Whalehead and whale-headed stork. 

Scientific Name

  • Balaeniceps rex



  • The newly hatched shoebill stork is silvery-grey, while juveniles are a somewhat darker shade of grey than adults.
  • The plumage is a slaty blue-grey with a darker grey head. The primary is black-tipped, whereas the secondary is greenish. The underbelly is a lighter grey color.
  • The bill is yellowish in hue with blotchy dark markings.

Read also: Black Mouth Cur-Everything you need to know

Height & Size

  • They are large, frightening-looking birds that stand 110 to 140 cm tall.
  • Males possess longer bills and are larger than females.


  • They have a little feathered crest on the back of their heads and have an eight-foot wingspan.


  • The storks are normally silent, although they will frequently engage in bill-clattering, which is a true stork habit.
  • Adult will commonly do this when meeting each other at the nest, but juvenile shoebills will often do it.


  • It makes its sound by pressing its bill’s lower and upper jaws together, resulting in a loud hollow sound.
  • These are short bursts of sound that sound like machine guns or tribal drums banging.
  • They make a sound akin to a human with hiccups when they ask for food.


  • Shoebill Stork, which inhabit eastern tropical Africa’s marshes, hunt for smaller prey.
  • However, it is only marginally smaller.
  • Large fish like lungfish, eels, and catfish, as well as strange species like Nile monitor lizards, snakes, and infant crocodiles, are eaten. Crocodiles are eaten by this bird!


  • They live about 36 years in the wild. 

Reproduction & Breeding 

  • They achieve sexual maturity between the ages of three and four, and breeding pairs are monogamous.
  • In nature, however, these birds are very lonely, and even breeding pairs will feed on opposing parts of their territory.
  • Breeding pairs construct nests that can be up to eight feet wide and are built on water or floating plants.

Read also: Puggle-Mix breed or pure?


  • It is found in central tropical Africa’s freshwater wetlands, from southern Sudan and South Sudan to eastern Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, western Tanzania, and northern Zambia.


  • The storks can be found in freshwater swamps and thick marshes.
  • They are frequently found in floodplain settings with undisturbed papyrus and reedbeds. A bed of floating plants is required when Shoebill Storks are in a region with deep water.
  • They can also be found in areas with low oxygen levels in the water. This allows the fish in the water to surface for air more frequently, boosting the chances of a shoebill stork catching it.

Geographical Range

  • They are found only in Africa’s east-central region.
  • The primary populations can be found in southern Sudan (mostly in the White Nile Sudd), northern Uganda and western Tanzania’s wetlands, and northeastern Zambia’s Bangweulu swamp. Eastern Zaire and Rwanda have smaller populations.
  • The distribution of this bird is usually the same as that of papyrus and lungfish.


  • The storks use plant material to build their nests.
  • These birds prefer to be near or in water.
  • They even build their nests on top of floating vegetation, using plant material found in the region.


  • They have lengthy toes (up to 18cm from heel to toe) with no webbing that assists them to balance on swampy plants when pursuing prey.
  • They also have a nictitating membrane, which is a translucent coating that covers their eyes and allows them to hunt and preen.  

Shoebill Stork With Human Beings

  • The storks are quite friendly to humans.
  • Researchers researching these birds were able to get within 6 feet of a nesting Shoebill Stork. They will not attack humans, but will simply stare them down.


  • According to accounts, they can sell for $10,000 to $20,000 in the United States, making them the most costly birds in the zoo trade.
  • Because of the high price, shady dealers capture the Shoebill and sell it to zoos or middlemen, thus diminishing the wild population size. In captivity, Shoebills rarely reproduce.

Read also: Finnish Spitz-Characteristic, Lifespan & Food

Shoebill Stork At Zoo

  • Only 12 adult shoebills exist in North American wildlife facilities, four of which are housed at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo.
  • All Shoebills in today’s zoos were either born there or legally taken from the wild.

Population & Conservation

  • According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, there are only 3,300 to 5,300 adult Shoebill Stork left in the world, and their numbers are declining.
  • Habitat loss is a big concern when land is cleared for grazing, and animals occasionally trample nests. 

Fun Facts

  • The first European to hear of the shoebill was Ferdinand Werne, a German diplomat and traveler.
  • Whale-head king is another name for them.
  • They wait for an unsuspecting fish to come in the water before catching its victim. The bird then “collapses” on its prey, expanding its wings and diving down bill-first to catch the fish off, guard. The fish is then killed in its mouth by grinding the sharp edges of its bill together.
  • They don’t make a lot of noise, but when they do, it’s a lot!
  • They have a lot of patience.

Reference Link

Shoebill Stork-FAQ

How tall is a Shoebill Stork?

It can grow up to five feet tall with an eight-foot wingspan.

Where does Shoebill Stork live?

They live in the swamps of eastern tropical Africa.

Can A Shoebill Stork Fly?

They may be large, yet they have the ability to fly if they so desire. Shoebills, on the other hand, don’t fly very far or very often.

Can a Shoebill hurt a human?

They are quite friendly to humans. Researchers researching these birds were able to get within 6 feet of a nesting shoebill stork. It would not attack humans, but will simply stare them down.

Where I can see a Shoebill in the US?

Three of just four shoebill storks in the United States can be found at ZooTampa. The birds may grow up to 5 feet tall and are considered vulnerable, with just 3,300 to 3,500 mature shoebills remaining in the wild.

Can a Shoebill be a pet?

They are fairly huge, which makes housing them challenging. Because owning a shoebill stork as a pet is prohibited in most countries, and the species is endangered, each individual is vital to the species’ survival.