Related to storks, the Marabou stork, Leptoptilos crumenifer, is a scavenger that plays the role of a rubbish collector in the savannah and landfills.
Sauropsida, Ciconiiformes, Ciconiidae
1.50 m max, 3-m wingspan; 9 kg at the most
30 days, 2 to 3 eggs
Dry environments, close to lakes and streams or rivers
carrion, small vertebrates, frogs, eggs
LC, Least concerned
Way of life
Marabou storks are sedentary, although some of those living far north or south can migrate towards central Africa in order to reproduce. They form fairly large colonies and are often associated with pelicans. The male chooses a site, defends it and waits for a female near the basic nest. The nest is built in a tree at a height of between 10 and 30 metres and is located near a water source, it is often renovated from one year to the next. Both parents take it in turns to incubate and they regurgitate food for their young.
Not as elegant as its cousin the stork, the marabou stork regularly joins forces with vultures to remove carcasses. Its featherless head and neck allow it to rummage around carcasses without getting dirty! This scavenger is often seen on the lookout for even the tiniest bit of rubbish near villages, landfills or abattoirs and, on occasion, it hunts small prey.
Because of its weight, the marabou stork flies by gliding, which conserves energy and uses warm air currents to help it rise up in the air. Like herons, it flies with its legs outstretched and its neck bent. In adults, the long gular sac, which swells to demonstrate dominance, is also used for thermoregulation.
Marabou storks are victims of environmental upheavals and pesticides, however, their populations are dense enough to ensure that they are not endangered. They are hunted locally for traditional medicine.