Readers’ wildlife photos

July 9, 2014 • 6:25 am

Reader “John in Ethiopia” sends an amazing photo of amazing birds, maribou storks (Leptoptilos crumeniferus), denizens of sub-Saharan Africa. His notes:

Marabou storks at the fish market in Awasa, a town in the Rift Valley in Ethiopia, 200 miles south of Addis. It makes me think of a Hieronymus Bosch painting. They are truly hideous birds, but I suspect very well adapted!

Maribou storks

And, indeed, Professor CC found a Bosch bird with an striking resemblance: look at the birds on the left both above and below:


I’m adding a YouTube video of a maribou stork in Palmitos Park in the Canary Islands. The caption is below:

The Marabou Stork (Leptoptilos crumeniferus) is a large wading bird in the stork family Ciconiidae and it has the largest wingspread of any living bird. Sometimes he is called the “Undertaker Bird” due to its shape from behind: cloak like wings and back, skinny white legs and he walks so funny. In this video he is doing his perform air acrobatics in free flight in the bird`s show in Palmitos Park in Gran Canarias. It´s over +38 degrees this day and the other birds have tuff time to make it, but it´s not a problem for the Undertaker. It breeds in Africa south of the Sahara in both wet and arid habitats, often near human habitation, especially waste tips. See the video and meet Mr Undertaker the Marabou Stork.

Now I’m not sure about the wingspan, as I thought the Andean Condor had the world’s largest. Also, I wonder why, if this bird can fly, it doesn’t fly away. Either its feathers are clipped to prevent long flights, or it simply hangs around for the free noms.

14 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Fascinating bird. He may be a stork, but he’s got the demeanor of a vulture–a vulture, that is, with the gait of a Tennessee walking horse.

    1. A very astute observation. New world vultures are not at all related to Old world vultures, but are in fact related to storks and herons. In fact, the relationship is so close that some taxonomists lump them in the same order as storks and herons.

  2. Hideous? I always quite liked them – very solemn. They are a feature of many east African towns. I hesitate to say this here, but I have seen one eating a juvenile totem-animal-of-this website. That might be enough to make them hideous after all.

    1. The hideousness is of course a subjective human response to their appearance of being born with a skin disease and those strange orange carbuncles at the base of the neck. On their own they are indeed solemn, but when I saw this lot in Awasa, the immediate impression was one of rapaciousness.

    2. Indeed; those birds aren’t hideous at all. They’re gloriously beautiful. Poetry in motion. And the colors!

      Vultures get a similar bad rap that I just can’t understand. Their plumage is darker than the depths of space, and I’m not sure any other bird is as graceful in the air. They truly defy gravity in a way that only astronauts should be able to.


  3. I like those birds, thanks for the photo.

    I like Bosch too…actually a friend of mine did a linoleum etching of the “bird” on the right. He made a bunch of t-shirts with it. Nice to see it again on canvas.

  4. Fantastic bird, and very cool action shot, John!

    I love the video, esp. the first part when bird and trainer are walking in step. 😀

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