Big Bird in Africa

October 7, 2013

GGR secretary bird

A large and distinctive bird of prey, the secretary bird is said to take its name from the elongated distinguishing feathers on the back of its neck. These spatula shaped feathers are believed to give the secretary bird the appearance of an old-fashioned secretary who would carry quill-pens tucked behind the ears. More recently, scientists believe that the name is derived from the Arabic word “saar-et-tair”, which translates directly to hunter and flight which may have been mistranslated through the ages.

Secretary Birds usually pair for life and are faithful to their nest site. The nest is normally an untidy bunch of twigs placed in a fork of a tree. The nest will grow over time as more kindling is added.  Secretary birds raise two, occasionally three young on a diet of small mammals and reptiles. The secretary bird is an opportunistic feeder , prey includes hares, mongoose, snakes, lizards, amphibians, freshwater crabs, and birds up to the size of guinea fowl, as well as their eggs.

In South Africa, there is a considerable concern about the conservation status of the species. There has been a substantial reduction in population size and have vanished from several areas. The most likely reason behind this is the loss of suitable habitat, and power line collisions.

Gondwana Game Reserve hosts several breeding pairs that stalk through the long grass.  By setting land aside for conservation purposes, the protection of a dwindling secretary bird population is fostered.