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The Specular Shoebill Stork

Updated on April 5, 2019
Shoebilled Stroke
Shoebilled Stroke

The Shoebill Stork

The Shoebill Stork a.k.a Balaeniceps rex is a a Stork-like bird that can be found in swamps from Sudan to Zambia. Its name comes from their distinctive beak.

Recently, it's was discovered that they are more closely related to pelicans and they are considered a "missing link" between stork and pelicans.

They lay two eggs and build their nests on the ground. In captivity they can live for 30 years.

Other names they go by: Whale-head Stork and Bog Bird.

Beauty or a Beast

Do you think the Shoebilled Storke is Beautiful or Ugly?

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Shoebill Stork
Shoebill Stork


Adult Shoebill Stork's plumage is grey while younger one are browner.

They can be 45 to 60 inches tall and weigh about 8-15 pounds. They have a wingspan of about 90 to 125 inch, and they can fly even though it uncommon for them to do so. Their signature beaks 23 centimeter long (9 inches) and 10 centimeters wide (4 inches wide.)

Their most identifiable characteristic is their beaks which looks like a wooden shoe that is tan with black blotches. They have a white tuff on their head and their eyes are yellow iris and a black pupil. There is little difference between male and females except male are larger.

Aren't they cute?

Shoebill Stork
Shoebill Stork


Shoebill Storks like in wetlands areas; freshwater swamps, dense marshes and areas of papyrus, reed, and grass beds in tropical parts of Eastern Africa.

They live mainly in Sudan. Due to habit destruction, BirdLife International has classified the Shoebill Stork as Vulnerable and they are protected under African Law. There is thought to be 8,000-10,000 in the wild.

shoebill Stork feeding
shoebill Stork feeding


Shoebill Storks eat fish (lungfish, tilapia, and bichirs), reptiles, small turtles, water snakes, frogs, baby crocodiles and small mammals. T

hey will stalk their prey and then take a lunge at their it, beak first with its whole body behind it, it's not the most graceful method but it gets the job done. They tend to forage in water with low oxygen levels. which is where fish most surface more often.

Shoebill Stork in Flight
Shoebill Stork in Flight

Where can you see them?

Aside from going to countries in Africa that have the wetlands where they live, where can you see the Shoebill Stork?

Shoebill Stork are a rare Zoo animal. There are only about 12 adults in captivity in North America and only two have been born in captivy but they can be seen at;

Tampa Lowery Zoo Park (the first zoo to have a chick hatch 12/25/09)

Houston Zoo

Weil vogelpark Walsrode (Germany)

Ueno Zoo (Japan)

Entebbe Zoo (Uganda)

Shoebill Stork Road trip

Shoebill Stork
Shoebill Stork

Would you go to one of the Zoos to see the Shoebill Stork?

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The first time

The first time I heard of the Shoebill Stork was many years ago when I was watching Animal Planet's the most extreme. The Show-bill Stork came in first place for most ugly. It was considered more ugly than the naked mole rat, which I do not agree with.

I think the Shoebill stork is rather cute with it large beak and grey feather, I will admit it not the most graceful bird in the world but their something other worldly about it that makes it captivating and almost magical.

Tell me what you think - What do you think of the Showbill Stork?

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    • wolfie10 profile image


      9 years ago

      funny looking bird. that's mother nature to you.

    • profile image

      orange3 lm 

      9 years ago

      Cool Stork! It looked like it was carved out of wood at first.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Wow, such an interesting lens!!! I must confess that I didn't know this bird, so I was really glad to read about it. Thank you for creating this lens!

    • Pip Gerard profile image

      Pip Gerard 

      9 years ago

      amazing looking birds!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      You've made a delightful lens on something I would never have thought of! Thanks for the offbeat focus on Squidoo--and for the visit to my lenses!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      What an interesting looking bird!

    • JohanVanGeyt profile image


      9 years ago from Belgium

      It must be very frustrating. Being so cute when you are young and so ugly when you are grown up.

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image


      9 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      Wow! This bird is quite unique with its strange bill and the little chick is cute. Hadn't realized it was so big until I watched the video. Thanks for introducing this most unusual bird. :)

    • Demaw profile image


      10 years ago

      Rather interesting looking bird.

    • RiverCygnet profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago

      @imolaK: Thank you so much for your Blessing :)

    • RiverCygnet profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago

      @annieangel1: No, you were correct, it was in the wrong category. I changed it right after you commented. Thank you for comment :)

    • annieangel1 profile image


      10 years ago from Yorkshire, England

      @annieangel1: oh heck - my mistake it IS in the wild bird neighbourhood already - senior moment there. :0)

    • annieangel1 profile image


      10 years ago from Yorkshire, England

      this is a lovely lens - but in the wrong section - try changing it to

      pets and animals - birds - wild birds

      blessed by the squidangel for wild birds and featured on my wild bird lens - cheers

    • imolaK profile image


      10 years ago

      Thank you for sharing this lens with us. I've never heard about this bird, but I now some facts about it. Blessed!


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