Majestic Elegance: Exploring the Beauty and Splendor of Secretary Birds

We might be having a bad day, but if a pretty bird comes into view, suddenly we all feel a little lighter. According to bird watchers and scientists, there are about 9,000 to 10,000 species of birds. One way to spot them is physical appearance when you take a closer look, it becomes obvious that birds are available many shapes and colors, and a few are absolutely drop-dead gorgeous.

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There are many birds with weird names and monikers and most of them are not named for what their silly names depict. Today’s story is about some 4-feet-tall birds named secretary birds have long, beautiful and luxurious lashes. h/t: Scientific American, Journal of African Ornithology. It kinda looks like secretaries at corporate offices if we put it in a red dress. And have those kind of eyelashes human women go to great lengths to achieve. Some people said the predates even this and was first described and named in 1769. The Dutch settlers in Africa called the bird “Sagittarius”, but due to their lack of knowledge and strong accent, local farmers called them “Secretarius.” And later morphed into secretary.

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What are secretary birds? These raptors of sub-Saharan Africa’s savannas, grasslands, and shrub lands stand at nearly four feet tall—and standing is often how you’ll find them, because they primarily move around on foot. They fly only when necessary, such as to reach their nest in the trees and for courtship displays.

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The secretary bird is distinguished by its long legs and a dramatic black crest of feathers on the back of its head. Its body is covered in whitish-gray feathers, with two long, black-tipped tail feathers. Its bare face is usually yellow, orange or red. The top half of its long legs has black feathers, so it looks a bit like it’s wearing bicycle shorts. The lower half is covered with scales and has barely visible feathers.

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While it’s not known for certain where the name “secretary bird” comes from, one explanation is that they’re named after 19th lawyer’s clerks, or secretaries. Secretaries typically wore gray coats and knee-length black pants, and they would tuck quill pens behind their ears, similar to the bird’s coloring and head feather. Another theory is that “secretary bird” is an English-language corruption of saqr et-tair—roughly meaning “hunter bird” in Arabic a phrase one traveler claims to have heard Arabic-speaking people in Sudan call it. That explanation, however, has been called into doubt by some experts.

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Hunting and diet: Secretary birds and caracaras are the only two birds of prey that hunt on the ground instead of from the air. Secretary birds’ diets consist of small rodents, amphibians, and reptiles. Working in small groups or with a partner, secretary birds hunt from just after dawn through to the evening, resting only during the peak heat of the afternoon. They sometimes capture prey by striking at it with their short, hooked beaks, but more famously, secretary birds use their large feet and sharp claws to stomp it to death.

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Snakes are a favorite meal, and in fact, the bird’s scientific name, Sagittarius serpentarius, means “the archer of snakes.” If a snake tries striking a secretary bird, it usually ends up with a mouthful of feathers from the bird’s almost seven-foot wingspan, which it uses as a distraction. The scales on their lower legs provide additional protection from snakebites.

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Human encroachment on secretary birds’ natural habitat has led the species to be classified as vulnerable to extinction. Some of its grasslands habitat has been burned and cleared for livestock. Those open areas leave little protection for prey animals, making it hard for secretary birds to find food. Some secretary birds can make do in human-created open areas by scavenging small animals that didn’t escape the fires or other predators.

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The presence of humans mainly herders is known to interfere with secretary bird breeding. Secretary birds can be found in a number of protected areas across their large range, but scientists say better monitoring is needed to track their numbers and quantify their decline in some areas.