The Saddle-Billed Stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis)


#BeakoftheWeek threw up a beauty with this selection.  Its bill looks like it has had the aboriginal flag draped over it, it eats lungfish and it is 1.5m tall, I love it already. Add to that its wingspan of around 2.5m and you have got yourself one impressive bird.

Male and female fishing

Male and female fishing

This species is unique amongst storks in being sexually dimorphic in colouration, with males having dark brown irises and females yellow.

Their beaks not only look fantastic but they are also helpful in population studies, with variation around the distal edge of the black bill band allowing them to be individually identified.


Saddle-bills have got to be one of the best looking storks out there and it would be a dream come true to head down to the Kruger National Park to see them, but for now i’ll make do with documentaries and YouTube. Check out the video below of some fishing in Kruger National Park (see if you can ID the male and female). I have to admit the Hamerkop really stole the show for me, and how that Lion watched so patiently i’ll never know.

This species is found across tropical Africa and you can see a range map on Xeno Canto, but disappointingly no calls as they tend to be almost mute away from nests.  It is usually found around aquatic habitats such as marshland and on the margins of large and small rivers, but also in savanna and semi-arid areas.  This large bird tries to be a pescatarian with it’s mainly fish based diet, but it does slip up with some frogs, small mammals, reptiles and other tasty creatures.

They make their large nests (around 2m across) in trees and lay 2-3 eggs late in the rainy season/early in the dry season. The eggs take about 30-35 days to hatch and the chicks fledge 70-100 days later, taking at least 3 years to reach maturity.

The IUCN redlist has them down as of at least concern, with population sizes varying from 1,000 to 25,000. They are vulnerable to disturbance wetland degradation and conversion to agriculture.



BirdLife International. 2012. Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T22697706A40246910. . Downloaded on 30 September 2015.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Elliott, A., Garcia, E.F.J. & Boesman, P. (2013). Saddlebill (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.) (2013). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 30 September 2015).

Images and Videos

Africa Adventures. 2015. Saddle-Billed Stork Fishing In Kruger Park. Online. 30/09/2015. Available from:

Male and female fishing by Tarique Sani is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.