Wednesday, May 11, 2016


I was away for over a week in Florida where I visited some of the local wildlife highlights. I went to Homosassa, which is home to some manatees, but this post is not about that unusual creature. It was the birds in the sanctuary that caught my eye, so this week I decided to talk about a bird, and I thought we’d take a look at one bird that has always fascinated me because of its name.


Photo credit: San Diego Zoo 

When I first heard about this bird (I don’t mind saying that it was many moons ago), I was a young secretary in a legal firm. I was stunned by the name of the bird and wondered why it was called a Secretary Bird. I imagined all sorts of reasons, i.e., it scratched out symbols in the dust, or possibly delivered hot beverages to its mate. Perhaps it paid the bills and kept the books balanced. Yep, I’ve got a weird imagination. But this bird’s real story and behavior is extraordinary, so let’s take a look.

As you can see from the below photo, the Secretary Bird (aka, Secretarybird) can fly and it also nests in trees. However, this feathered phenomenon prefers to stay on the ground. In fact, it is the only species of bird that will hunt its prey on foot, or claw, if you prefer.

On the ground, the Secretary Bird can move at a snappy pace of about eighteen miles per hour. Because of this swift ground movement, this bird has also been known as the ‘Devil’s Horse.’ That's kind of creepy. 

It is considered vulnerable by the IUCN* and can be found in sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal to Ethiopia, and extending southwards through eastern African countries into South Africa. Its populations were once more extended, but due to human encroachment, there is a continuing decline.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Africans refer to this bird as the ‘marching eagle,’ which, after watching a few videos, I came to understand and agree with this moniker. You will understand too after you watch the below video. Take note of those exceedingly long legs! It can stand approximately four feet tall. For a creature that seems somewhat awkwardly built, it is gorgeously delicate in its movement.

As I said, the Secretary Bird would rather stay on the ground and hunt for food there. In particular, this bird likes all kinds of insects, small mammals, and snakes, which they will swallow whole. It has also been known to dine on an occasional chicken. Another nickname for this bird is the ‘stomping’ bird (how do they keep track of all those names!). It was given that name due to the way it kills its prey. A picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s another video to give you an idea of how efficient a hunter, and ‘stomper,’ this marvelous bird is.

I guess you’re still wondering, like I did so many years ago, why they call it the Secretary Bird? Well, it’s pretty silly, but back in the 1700s, only men were secretaries, and they wore wigs. Those wigs became a convenient place to stick their writing implements. The dark quills poking out from the heads of the Secretary Bird reminded someone of those wigs with the pens sticking out.



Thanks for stopping by, and remember it’s always good to have a pen or pencil handy—just in case.

*IUCN = International Union for Conservation of Nature.

If you’d like to learn more about the Secretary Bird, visit the following sites:

Please come back next week. 


Jeanne E. Rogers, Award Winning Author
The Sword of Demelza and The Gift of Sunderland
Middle-Grade Fantasy Where Endangered Animal Heroes Roam the Pages!

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