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The Wildebeest's guide to South Africa


Afrikaans name: Sekretarisvoel


Photo © EcoView -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reader's Digest Illustrated Guide to the Game Parks and Nature Reserves of Southern Africa - 2nd edi - Author: Editor - Alan Duggan - Year Published: 1991 - Page: 409

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

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

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

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

List of South African Birds

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