Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Rare Shoebill Big Stock Bird in Uganda


The shoebill is a tall bird, with a typical height range of 110 to 140 cm (43 to 55 in) and some specimens reaching as much as 152 cm (60 in). Length from tail to beak can range from 100 to 140 cm (39 to 55 in) and wingspan is 230 to 260 cm (7 ft 7 in to 8 ft 6 in).


The shoebill is also known as whalehead, and it is a very large stork-like bird. It derives its name from its enormous shoe-shaped bill. It has a somewhat stork-like overall form and has previously been classified with the storks based on this morphology. The adult is mainly grey while the juveniles are browner. It lives in tropical East Africa in large swamps.

The birds are said to be in Zambia, Uganda, DR Congo, Tanzania, and Sudan.
Their numbers globally are said to be drastically reducing due to increased habitat loss. “there are an estimated 6,000 birds remaining". In Uganda they can be found in Murchison Falls National Park, Mabamba Weltands in Mpigi, Rutembe Bay, Lake Opeta - Bisina in Katakwi and around the Kyoga basin 

Shoebills are largely piscivorous (animals that feed on fish) but are assured predators of a considerable range of wetland vertebrates.

Preferred prey species have reportedly included marbled lungfish as well as various Tilapia species and catfish. Other prey eaten by this species includes frogs, water snakes and baby crocodiles.

Habitat

The shoebill is distributed in freshwater swamps of central tropical Africa. The species is most numerous in the West Nile sub-region and in wetlands of Uganda and western Tanzania. The distribution of this species seems to largely coincide with that of papyrus and lungfish. The shoebill is a non-migratory bird with limited seasonal movements due to habitat changes, food availability and disturbance by humans.



The shoebill occurs in extensive, dense freshwater marshes. Almost all wetlands that attract the species have undisturbed Cyperus papyrus and reed beds of Phragmites and Typha. Although their distribution largely seems to correspond with the distribution of papyrus. In Uganda the shoebill can be found in Murchison Falls National Park, Mabamba Weltands in Mpigi, Rutembe Bay, Lake Opeta - Bisina in Katakwi and around the Kyoga basin.

 

Breeding

 The solitary nature of shoebills extends to their breeding habits. Nests typically occur at less than three nests per square kilometre, unlike herons, cormorants, pelicans and storks which predominantly nest in colonies.



The breeding pair of shoebills vigorously defends a territory of 2 to 4 km2 (0.77 to 1.54 sq mi) from conspecifics. In the extreme north and south of the species' range, nesting starts right after the rains end. In more central regions of the range, it may nest near end of wet season in order to hatch around the beginning of the following wet season. Both parents engage in building the nest on floating platform, after clearing out an area of approximately 3 m (9.8 ft) across. The large, flattish nesting platform is often partially submerged in water and can be as much as 3 m (9.8 ft) deep. The nest itself is about 1 to 1.7 m (3.3 to 5.6 ft) wide. Both the nest and platform are made of aquatic vegetation.

One to three white eggs are laid. These eggs measure 80 to 90 mm (3.1 to 3.5 in) high by 56 to 61 mm (2.2 to 2.4 in) and weigh around 164 g (5.8 oz). Incubation lasts for approximately 30 days. Both parents actively brood, shade, guard and feed the nestling, though the females are perhaps slightly more attentive. Food items are regurgitated whole from the gullet straight into the bill of the young. Shoebills rarely raise more than one chick, but will hatch more. The younger chicks are intended as back-ups in case the eldest dies or is weak. Fledging is reached at around 105 days and the young birds can fly well by 112 days. However, they are still fed for possibly a month or more after this. It will take the young shoebills three years before they become fully sexually mature.