Hammerkop, Zambia, Africa

Hammerkop, Zambia, Africa

I love this bird because it’s unique.  The unusual hammer shape of its head dictates it’s name, which translates to “hammerhead.”  They don’t flutter about, or squawk or even peep, and are not bright-colored or flashy.


Scopus umbretta can be found primarily in sub-Saharan Africa, we saw this one in Zambia.  Often seen wading in shallow water, they feed on amphibians, fish, shrimp, insects and rodents.



A wading bird at nearly two feet tall, they are defined as a “sedentary” bird because they do not move from area to area.  But they aren’t couch potatoes.  They are always hunting for prey, and probing with their bill (which has a slight hook on the end).  Non-migratory.  I’ve read that they have colorful nests and active courtship dances, but it’s not what you usually see as you’re bouncing along in the safari jeep.  This photo reflects what you usually see.


Their conservation status is “least concern” but in my experience they are not easy to find.  When we see one, we always ask the driver to stop.  I guess I just can’t get enough of them.


Photo credit:  Athena Alexander


25 thoughts on “Hammerkop

    • Hi Emy, How nice to hear from South Africa. I hadn’t heard they were considered a symbol of death. I once watched a hammerkop eat a frog, I imagine the frog had a similar thought. Thanks very much for your visit and comment. 🙂

  1. Jet,Dear ! What a great naturalist and nature lover you are ! Your posts compose the most interesting Natural History book ever ! Each time I visit your blog a big surprise is awaiting me …
    I so much liked the profile and the portrait of our new feathered friend and I got my laugh when you described it ( couch potato ) because it is not an active species.
    Sending love and kind thoughts your way, Doda 🙂

    • It is so much fun for me to relay these adventures to you and my other blogging friends, Doda. There is infinite wonder in this world, it is a delight to share it, and especially with friends like you. Many thanks for your warm comments and enthusiasm, Doda. 😀

  2. I liked your distinction between ‘sedentary’ of place but not of habit. Lovely description of these birds. They are new to me, and the shape of the head is certainly very striking. If they are two feet tall, they must be quite a presence. Lisa

    • They really are quite a presence, even being basically brown and quiet. The cockatoos and parrots that grace your fifteen acres are fun for me to follow on your blog, so I’m glad you enjoy the hammerkops on my blog. 🙂 Many thanks, Lisa.

  3. Very interesting bird, Jet. He looks remarkably like one of the characters in the Tatooine Cantina scene in Star Wars. 🙂

    • It IS an interesting bird, thank you Nan. I find there are many wild creatures on this earth that look remarkably like Star Wars characters…your comment about this made me smile, thank you. 🙂

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