The Wildebeest's guide to South Africa

Secretarybird

Afrikaans name: Sekretarisvoel

Secretarybird

Photo © EcoView - Fotolia.com

Sagittarius serpentarius

The Secretarybird is commonly believed to have got its common name from the feathers that stick out from behind its head which resemble someone with a pen or quill stuck behind their ear. I like this explanation but it may not be the correct one. Some sources say that the name comes from the Arabic word saqr-et-tair which means "hunter-bird". This also makes sense!

Secretarybirds have a standing height of around 1.3 metres. They weigh around 3 to 4 kg. The face of adult birds is orange while juveniles are yellow.

You will normally see Secretarybirds in areas of savanna or grassland. They patrol the grasslands looking for food items which include snakes, small mammals, birds, eggs, crabs and lizards. They use their long legs to stamp on the grass and chase out or kill prey.

They build their large nests in the top of smallish trees. The nest is made of sticks and is about 2.5 metres across. The female Secretarybird lays 2 or 3 eggs but it is rare that 3 chicks are raised.

References and further reading

Wildlife of Southern Africa - Author: Martin Withers and David Hosking - Published: 2011 - Page: 62

Wild Issue 18 - Author: - Published: 2012 - Page: 9

Tracks and Tracking in Southern Africa - Author: Louis Liebenberg - Published: 2000 - Page: 36

The Status & Conservation of Birds of Prey in the Transvaal - Author: W. Tarboton and D. Allan - Published: 1984 - Page: 7

The Birds of South Africa - 1st Edition - Author: Dr. Austin Roberts - Published: 1949 - Page: 39

Roberts Birds of Southern Africa - 6th Edition - Author: Gordon Lindsay Maclean - Published: 1993 - Page: 100

The Birds of South Africa - Author: Hazel Stokes - Published: 1979 - Page: 7

Southern African Wildlife - Author: Readers Digest - Published: 1989 - Page: 108

Southern African Bird Names Explained - Author: Charles Clinning - Published: 1989 - Page: 124

Sasol Birds of Southern Africa - 4th Edition - Author: Ian Sinclair et al. - Published: 2011 - Page: 152

Sasol Birds of Southern Africa - 1st Edition - Author: Ian Sinclair et al. - Published: 1993 - Page: 150

Roberts Birds of Southern Africa - 5th Edition - Author: Gordon Lindsay Maclean - Published: 1985 - Page: 97

Roberts Birds of South Africa - 4th Edition - Author: McLachlan and Liversidge - Published: 1981 - Page: 78

Roberts Birds of South Africa - 3rd Edition - Author: McLachlan and Liversidge - Published: 1975 - Page: 70

Roberts Birds of South Africa - 2nd edition - Author: McLachlan and Liversidge - Published: 1957 - Page: 54

Questions and Answers - Birds of Southern Africa - Author: Deirdre Richards - Published: 1990 - Page: 19

Pollinators, Predators and Parasites - Author: C. Scholtz, J. Scholtz, H. De Klerk - Published: 2021 - Page: 150

Newmans Birds of Southern Africa - 7th Edition - Author: Ken Newman - Published: 2000 - Page: 150

Meeting with Birds - Author: Tom Spence - Published: 1986 - Page: 37

Newmans Birds of Southern Africa - 1st Edition - Author: Ken Newman - Published: 1984 - Page: 150

Ian Sinclairs Field Guide to the Birds of Southern Africa - 2nd Edition - Author: Ian Sinclair - Published: 1988 - Page: 110

Illustrated Guide to the Game Parks and Nature Reserves of SA - 2nd edn - Author: Readers Digest - Published: 1991 - Page: 409

Birds of the South Western Cape - Author: Joy Frandsen - Published: 0 - Page: 45

Birds of the Transkei - Author: C.D. Quickelberge - Published: 1989 - Page: 38

Birds of the Transvaal - Author: Tarboton, Kemp and Kemp - Published: 1987 - Page: 41

Collins Illustrated Checklist - Birds of Southern Africa - 1st edition - Author: Ber van Perlo - Published: 1999 - Page: 26

Country Life - Issue 284 - Author: - Published: 2020 - Page: 84

Eagles, Hawks & Falcons of the World - Author: Leslie Brown and Dean Amadon - Published: 1989 - Page: 721

Everyones Guide to South African Birds - Author: John Sinclair and John Mendelsohn - Published: 1987 - Page: 26

Field Guide to the Birds of Kruger National Park - Author: Ian Sinclair and Ian Whyte - Published: 1991 - Page: 152

Birds of Southern Africa - Kruger National Park - Author: Kenneth Newman - Published: 1985 - Page: 60

Birds of the Natal Drakensberg Park - Author: Robin Little and William Bainbridge - Published: 1992 - Page: 13

Bird Atlas of Natal - Author: Digby Cyrus and Nigel Robson - Published: 1980 - Page: 62

Birds of Prey of Southern Africa - Author: Peter Steyn - Published: 1985 - Page: 1

Birds of Prey of the World - Author: Friedhelm Weick - Published: 1980 - Page: 66

An Introduction to the Birds of Prey of South Africa - Author: D.V. Prout-Jones - Published: 1974 - Page: 122

Animals of the Kruger National Park - Author: G. de Graaff - Published: 1987 - Page: 61

An Introduction to the Birds of Prey of South Africa - Author: D.V. Prout-Jones - Published: 1974 - Page: 24

African Wildlife - International Edition - Vol 35 No 5 - Author: - Published: 1981 - Page: 47

African Birds of Prey - Author: Leslie Brown - Published: 1970 - Page: 139

A First Guide to South African Birds - 6th Edition - Author: Leonard Gill - Published: 1959 - Page: 136

A First Guide to South African Birds - 7th Edition - Author: Leonard Gill - Published: 1975 - Page: 136

A Field Guide to the Birds of Southern Africa - 2nd Edition - Author: O.P.M. Prozesky - Published: 1983 - Page: 57

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