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