Portrait of a shoebill

Shoebill

There is no mistaking Africa’s secretive shoebill with its enormous bill and almost prehistoric looks. These large stork-like birds inhabit the continent’s central and eastern tropical swamps and marshes. Shoebills particularly like poorly oxygenated shallow water as fish surface more often, becoming easy prey for a stalking shoebill with a rapid strike in the tall vegetation. Shoebills are mostly silent and solitary birds, only coming together when food is scarce or to breed. Shoebill breeding coincides with the dry season which may help prevent their large flat nests from flooding. Like some other storks they pour water over the nest to keep the eggs cool.

Did you know?
Shoebills share similarities with pelicans, herons, hamerkops and storks.

Scientific name: Balaeniceps rex

Rank: Species

Common names:

  • Whale-headed stork,
  • Whalehead

Watch video clips from past programmes (2 clips)

In order to see this content you need to have an up-to-date version of Flash installed and Javascript turned on.

Distribution

The Shoebill can be found in a number of locations including: Africa. Find out more about these places and what else lives there.

Habitats

The following habitats are found across the Shoebill distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web

Classification

  1. Life
  2. Animals
  3. Vertebrates
  4. Birds
  5. Pelicans, cormorants and gannets
  6. Balaenicipitidae
  7. Balaeniceps
  8. Shoebill

Elsewhere on the BBC