Stepping on serpents

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NO MISTAKING IT: The secretarybird is most often found in open grassland, hunting snakes and rodents Picture: TIM COCKCROFT
NO MISTAKING IT: The secretarybird is most often found in open grassland, hunting snakes and rodents Picture: TIM COCKCROFT

Let’s Chirp with Tim Cockcroft

THIS time we are going to take a bird that although well known, and not rare, is also not seen by many people every day.

It is the majestic large raptor we all know as the secretarybird.

This is one bird that cannot be mistaken for any other. Loose, large, pale grey feathers hanging from its neck and chest, neat black “trousers”, long pinkish legs, black wings (flight feathers) and a long, grey tail, tipped black, are the features that make this bird recognisable from far off.

At close quarters one can’t help but notice the long, black-tipped quills hanging down from behind the head, or the glowing orange-red face, with a rather snobbish expression that says, “I’m better than you!”

The secretarybird is fortunately still fairly common in our area. It is most often seen walking briskly through the open grassland, in search of snakes and rodents. When it finds prey, it will use its powerful legs and feet to kill it. After some hefty blows, it will enjoy its meal. In actual fact, the scientific name, “Saggitarius serpentarius” means “archer that eats snakes”.

Despite its large size, it is a powerful flyer. I have seen them soaring… yep, they have a large wingspan alright! They nest on top of a tree. The young secretarybird looks similar to the adult, except for being a bit duller and having a paler eye and facial skin.

That’s all for now, friends. Please remember I am available for birdwatching tours in and around the Port Alfred area. You can contact me on 072-314-0069 for more information. Until next time!

 

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