The Marabou Stork, Leptoptilos crumeniferus, is a large wading bird with an unsual appearance, commonly found in tropical areas of Africa. (2, 3). Marabous have a long tan beak, long legs, a white chest of feathers and wings covered with dark grey or black feathers. Adults can weigh up to 5-6 kg (12-14lbs) and can have a wingspan as large as 4 m (12 feet)(2).Marabou storks have a visible red throat air sac on its neck that it can inflate and deflate. Another sac can be found on the “hindneck” or behind the head and is hidden by feathers. (2).Marabou storks breed in colonies, each individual nest is made of sticks. Nests are built near a reliable food source and can be found built on high trees (10-30m), on rock faces or in towns and villages (1). Marabou storks are scavengers that feed in groups and eat a wide variety of food (carrion, fish, bugs, frogs, snakes, mice and rats). Their habitat ranges from savannas to riverbanks or lakeshores (1) however their eating habits have led them into urban areas where they can access garbage and waste from Abattoirs (slaughterhouses) and fishing villages where they can access fish and food waste from humans (1, 3, 4).
The Marabou stork is found throughout Africa. However, it usually resides somewhere between the Sahara Desert and South Africa. ( Dinsmore, 1997; Deignan, 1982)
Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )
Sub-Saharan Africa: all S of Sahara except forest area, around Gabon, N Angola and W South Africa.
Sub-Saharan Africa: all S of Sahara except forest area, around Gabon, N Angola and W South Africa.
Sub-Saharan Africa: all S of Sahara except forest area around Gabon, N Angola and W South Africa.
Leptoptilos crumeniferus is a large, unusual looking bird. It stands on long, grey legs at about 1.5 meters tall. The bird's upper body and wings are black or dark grey, and its underparts are white. Its soft, white tail feathers are known as marabou. Its neck and head contain no feathers. The Marabou stork has a long, reddish pouch hanging from its neck. This pouch is used in courtship rituals. (Dinsmore, 1997)
Average mass: 9000 g.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Average mass: 8000 g.
Zambezian Halophytics Habitat
The Makgadikgadi spiny agama (Agama hispida makarikarika) is endemic to the Makgadikgadi Pans complex within the Botswana element of the Zambezian halophytics ecoregion. This agama typically inhabits the edges of the pans but it is difficult to spot, since it buries itself in the sand during the heat of the day.
One of the largest saltpans in the world, the Makgadikgadi Pan complex in Botswana stretches out over 12,000 square kilometres. The ecoregion is classified within the Flooded Grasslands and Savanna biome. Surrounded by the semi-arid Kalahari savannas, the pans experience a harsh climate, hot with little rain, and are normally a vast, glaring expanse of salt-saturated clay. These pans are sustained by freshwater from the Nata River, and more infrequently, from input from the Okavango Alluvial Fan by way of the Boteti River. Saline- and drought-tolerant plant species generally line the pan perimeters, with grasslands further removed from the pans.
For most of the year the pans are depauperate in bird numbers, except for ostriches and species such as the Chestnut-banded sand-plover and Kittlitz’s plover (Charadrius pallidus, C. pecuarius). The sole hospitable area to birds during these times is the Nata Delta, which has a permanent water source and a small resident population of waterbirds including grebes (Podiceps spp.), cormorants (Phalacrocorax spp.), ducks and plovers (Charadrius spp.) with a few flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber, Phoeniconaias minor) and pelicans (Pelecanus spp.). The grasslands surrounding the pans support a moderate bird fauna with species such as ostriches, secretary birds (Sagittarius serpentarius), kori bustards (Ardeotis kori), korhaans (Eupodotis spp.), sandgrouse (Pterocles spp.) and francolin (Francolinus spp.) being common. The Hyphaene palms to the west of the pans are nesting sites for, among others, the greater kestrel (Falco rupicoloides) and the palm-nut vulture (Gypohierax angolensis). After good rains the pans are transformed into a vibrant paradise, attracting thousands of waterbirds, most of which come to breed on the pans. Wattled and southern crowned cranes (Grus carunculatus, Balearica regulorum), saddle-billed, marabou and open-billed storks (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis, Leptoptilos crumeniferus, Anastomus lamelligerus), African fish eagles (Haliaeeetus vocifer), black-necked grebes (Podiceps nigricollis), Caspian terns (Hydroprogne caspia), eastern white and pink-backed pelicans (Pelecanus onocrotalus, P. rufescens), geese and waders such as avocets (Recurvirostra avosetta), black-winged stilts (Himantopus himantopus), plovers, sandpipers and teals (Anas spp.) congregate around the pans. The most spectacular arrival are the greater and lesser flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber and Phoeniconaias minor) that flock to the pans in their thousands.
Most mammalian taxa within the ecoregion inhabit the grasslands surrounding the pans. These include Hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus), Gemsbok (Oryx gazella), Springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis), Steenbok (Raphicerus campestris), Greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros), Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardus), Burchells zebra (Equus burchelli), Blue wildebeest (Connocheatus taurinus), black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas), Brown hyaena (Hyaena brunnea), Spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta), Lion (Panthera leo), Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), Painted hunting dog (Lycaon pictus) and even African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana) along the Boteti River. The Nxai Pan has a sizeable Springbok population and is one of the few places where Springbok and Impala cohabit. These two antelope are normally separated by habitat preference, but the Acacia savanna surrounding Nxai Pan provides the impala with a suitable habitat while the grass covered pan mimics the desert conditions preferred by Springbok.
- A. Campbell. 1990. The nature of Botswana: a guide to conservation and development. IUCN, Harare, Zimbabwe. ISBN: 2880329345
- C.MIchael Hogan & World Wildlife Fund. 2015. Zambezian halophytics. Encyclopedia of Earth. National Council for Science and Environment. Washington DC
Southern Africa Bushveld
Garman's toad (Amietophrynus garmani) is found in the Southern African bushveld, among other ecoregions. The Southern Africa bushveld is an element of the vast savannas that cover much of southern Africa. There is low endemism in this ecoregion for both flora or fauna, but the charismatic large mammals and rich birdlife characteristic of African savannas are in evidence. The rugged Waterberg Mountains contain the highest levels of species richness and endemism in the region, and are noted for their reptilian endemism. The ecoregion occurs on an extensive, undulating interior plateau, which lies at an elevation between 700 metres (m) to 1100 m. The soils of this plateau are chiefly coarse, sandy and shallow, overlying granite, quartzite, sandstone or shale. The most distinctive topographical feature of the ecoregion is the rugged and rocky Waterberg Mountains, which rise up from the plateau to an elevation of between 1200 m to 1500 m.http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/51cbeeed7896bb431f69b38d/554565bb0cf24df5070a17ee/?topic=51cbfc79f702fc2ba8129ee0
The ecoregion amphibian associates of the Southern African bushveld are: Savanna ridged frog (Ptychadena anchietae); Angola frog (Rana angolensis); African gray treefrog (Chiromantis xerampelina); Senegal running frog (Kassina senegalensis); Striped stream frog (Strongylopus fasciatus); African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis); African split-skin toad (Schismaderma carens); Uzungwe grassland frog (Ptychadena uzungwensis); African ornate frog (Hildebrandtia ornata); Mababe river frog (Phrynobatrachus mababiensis); Marbled sand frog (Tomopterna marmorata); Marbled snout burrower (Hemisus marmoratus); Knocking sand frog (Tomopterna krugerensis), which is found broadly in southern Africa; and the Transvaal short-headed frog (Breviceps adspersus); Mozambique ridged frog (Ptychadena mossambica); Lukula grassland frog (Ptychadena taenioscelis); Horseshoe forest treefrog (Leptopelis bocagii); South African snake-necked frog (Phrynomantis bifasciatus); Boettger's dainty frog (Cacosternum boettgeri); Natal ghost frog (Heleophryne natalensis); Cryptic sandfrog (Tomopterna cryptotis); Mozambique rain frog (Breviceps mossambicus); Long reed frog (Hyperolius nasutus); Muller's clawed frog (Xenopus muelleri); Common reed frog (Hyperolius viridiflavus); Gray's stream frog (Strongylopus grayii); Natal puddle frog (Phrynobatrachus natalensis); Painted reed frog (Hyperolius marmoratus); Garman's toad (Amietophrynus garmani); Gutteral toad (Amietophrynus gutturalis); Transvaal dwarf toad (Poyntonophrynus fenoulheti); and the Flat-back toad (Amietophrynus maculatus).
Example reptilian associates within this ecoregion are: Bibron's worm snake (Typhlops bibronii); Vine snake (Thelotornis capensis); Black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis); Angola garter snake (Elapsoidea semiannulata); Annobon lidless skink (Panaspis annobonensis); Bark snake (Hemirhagerrhis nototaenia); Bell's hingeback tortoise (Kinixys belliana); Blue throated agama (Acanthocercus atricollis); Blunt-tailed worm lizard (Dalophia pistillum); Bradfield's dwarf gecko (Lygodactylus bradfieldi); the endemic gecko Broadley's rock gecko (Afroedura broadleyi); and the endemic lizards Platysaurus minor and Platysaurus monotropis.
Some of the many mammalian taxa found within the Southern African bushveld are: Burchell's zebra (Equus quagga burchelli); Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), a herbivore classified as Vulnerable; Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), a carnivore classified as Vulnerable; the Near Threatened White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum); Commerson's roundleaf bat (Tomopterna cryptotis), classified as Near Threatened; Spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta); and the Mauritian tomb bat (Taphozous mauritianus).
There are numerous avian species found in this ecoregion, a few examples being: the Near Threatened Red footed falcon (Falco vespertinus); Kori bustard (Ardeotis kori); Long-crested eagle (Lophaetus occipitalis); Olive bee eater (Merops superciliosus); Marabou stork (Leptoptilos crumeniferus); Martial eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus); and the Pink-backed pelican (Pelecanus rufescens).
The habitat of the Marabou stork includes aquatic, arid areas of Africa. The bird is also frequently found near landfills or fishing villages. (Lincoln Park Zoo, 1999)
Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland
Habitat and Ecology
The Marabou stork is a scavenger. It primarily relies on the carcasses of dead animals as their source of food. However, they also eat live prey, such as fish, reptiles, and locusts. (Campbell, 1974; Dinsmore, 1997)
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Status: wild: 25.0 years.
Status: captivity: 41.0 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Leptoptilos crumeniferus is known as a colonial breeder. It reaches sexual maturity when it is approximately four years old and usually mates for life. The stork lays its eggs in small nests made of sticks that hold two or three of its eggs. The Marabou breeds during the dry season because at this time the water levels are low, which make it easier to catch frogs and fish to feed the young. This stork may live up to 25 years. (Microsoft Encarta, 1999; Campbell, 1972)
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous
Average time to hatching: 30 days.
Average eggs per season: 2.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
Sex: male: 1460 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female: 1460 days.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Leptoptilos crumeniferus
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
Due to its ability to adjust to human activity, the population of Marabou storks may actually be increasing. (National Zoo, 2000)
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
The Marabou stork does not appear to have any negative effects on humans or the environment.
The Marabou stork reduces the spread of disease by cleaning up animal carcasses. (National Zoo, 2000)
The marabou stork (Leptoptilos crumenifer) is a large wading bird in the stork family Ciconiidae. It breeds in Africa south of the Sahara, in both wet and arid habitats, often near human habitation, especially waste tips. It is sometimes called the "undertaker bird" due to its shape from behind: cloak-like wings and back, skinny white legs, and sometimes a large white mass of "hair".
The marabou stork is a massive bird: large specimens are thought to reach a height of 152 cm (60 in) and a weight of 9 kg (20 lb). A wingspan of 3.7 m (12 ft) was accepted by Fisher and Peterson, who ranked the species as having the largest wing-spread of any living bird. Even higher measurements of up to 4.06 m (13.3 ft) have been reported, although no measurement over 3.19 m (10.5 ft) has been verified. It is often credited with the largest spread of any landbird, to rival the Andean condor; more typically, however, these storks measure 225–287 cm (7–9 ft) across the wings, which is about a foot less than the average Andean condor wingspan and nearly two feet less than the average of the largest albatrosses and pelicans. Typical weight is 4.5–8 kg (9.9–17.6 lb), unusually as low as 4 kg (8.8 lb), and length (from bill to tail) is 120 to 130 cm (47 to 51 in). Females are smaller than males. Bill length can range from 26.4 to 35 cm (10.4 to 13.8 in). Unlike most storks, the three Leptoptilos species fly with the neck retracted like a heron.
The marabou is unmistakable due to its size, bare head and neck, black back, and white underparts. It has a huge bill, a pink gular sac at its throat, a neck ruff, and black legs and wings. The sexes are alike, but the young bird is browner and has a smaller bill. Full maturity is not reached for up to four years.
Like most storks, the marabou is gregarious and a colonial breeder. In the African dry season (when food is more readily available as the pools shrink) it builds a tree nest in which two or three eggs are laid.
It also resembles other storks in that it is not very vocal, but indulges in bill-rattling courtship displays. The throat sac is also used to make various noises at that time.
The marabou stork is a frequent scavenger, and the naked head and neck are adaptations to this livelihood, as it is with the vultures with which the stork often feeds. In both cases, a feathered head would become rapidly clotted with blood and other substances when the bird's head was inside a large corpse, and the bare head is easier to keep clean.
This large and powerful bird eats mainly carrion, scraps and faeces but will opportunistically eat almost any animal matter it can swallow. It occasionally eats other birds including quelea nestlings, pigeons, doves, pelican and cormorant chicks, and even flamingos. During the breeding season, adults scale back on carrion and take mostly small, live prey since nestlings need this kind of food to survive. Common prey at this time may consist of fish, frogs, insects, eggs, small mammals and reptiles such as crocodile hatchlings and eggs. Though known to eat putrid and seemingly inedible foods, these storks may sometimes wash food in water to remove soil. When feeding on carrion, marabou frequently follow vultures, which are better equipped with hooked bills for tearing through carrion meat and may wait for the vultures to cast aside a piece, steal a piece of meat directly from the vulture or wait until the vultures are done. As with vultures, marabou storks perform an important natural function by cleaning areas via their ingestion of carrion and waste. Increasingly, marabous have become dependent on human garbage and hundreds of the huge birds can be found around African dumps or waiting for a hand out in urban areas. Marabous eating human garbage have been seen to devour virtually anything that they can swallow, including shoes and pieces of metal. Marabous conditioned to eating from human sources have been known to lash out when refused food.
Marabou down is frequently used in the trimming of various items of clothing and hats, as well as fishing lures. Turkey down and similar feathers have been used as a substitute for making 'marabou' trimming.
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- Seibt, U. and Wickler, W. (1978). "Marabou Storks Wash Dung Beetles". Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie 46 (3): 324–327. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0310.1978.tb01453.x.
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- Hellekson, Terry (2005). Fish flies : the encyclopedia of the fly tier's art (1st ed. ed.). Salt Lake City: Gibbs Smith. p. 91. ISBN 9781586856922.
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- Marabou Stork - The Atlas of Southern African Birds