NAIROBI PARK DIARY

A ‘thrill bill’ kill

Fish and other aquatic creatures get impaled on their lethal bill

In Summary

• They are not just beautiful in striking colours but are formidable in size as well

Saddle bill breakfast
Saddle bill breakfast
Image: GARETH JONES

As I approached a dam in the forest near the Langata gate, a flash of colour caught my eye. There in the midst of the reeds was a magnificent saddle-billed stork.

I sat quietly and watched for a while. It was obvious that this stork was trying to hunt in the late afternoon. Many storks, including saddle-billed, use their necks as a kind of wound-up whiplash as they coil their necks up, then at the appropriate time, release in a rapid elastic-like action.

This often results in prey like fish and other aquatic creatures being impaled on their lethal bill.

Suddenly the stork lunged forward and emerged from the reeds with a frog, it was ‘goodbye freddy'.

To actually see a saddlebill in the wild is always a thrill as they are large, impressive and colourful. In many parts of Africa, these storks are very rare, so to actually have them in the Nairobi National Park is wonderful.

However, to me these storks are much more than mere saddle-billed storks. I sometimes also refer to them as the “thrill bill” storks due to their incredible bills. They are not just beautiful in striking colours but are formidable in size as well.

The massive bill (up to 36cm long) is red with a black band and a yellow frontal shield (the 'saddle'). It is useful to note that the males have yellow wattles just below their bills and red-brown eyes, while the females have no wattles and yellow eyes.

 

I know of some people who visit the park for the prime purpose of going on a “birding safari”. There are so many hundreds of species to see at all times of the year.

It is good to stop at a rest site or just switch off the car engine and listen to the incredible variety bird songs that God has created. It is very calming and helps relieve stress.

For more park information link to the following website www.kws.go.ke