Marabou stork Definition | Characteristics & Facts

Marabou stork

Marabou Stork

Marabou stork Definition

The marabou stork (Leptoptilos crumenifer) is a large bird species belonging to the stork family, Ciconiidae. Here's a definition of the marabou stork:

Marabou stork General Characteristics & Facts

Physical Description

Marabou storks are among the largest flying birds, with a height of up to 152 centimeters (60 inches) and a wingspan that can reach up to 320 centimeters (126 inches). They have a distinctive appearance, characterized by a bald head, long and slender legs, and a huge bill. The plumage is mostly white, with black flight feathers and a large, inflatable, reddish throat pouch.


Marabou storks are native to sub-Saharan Africa, where they can be found in various habitats such as wetlands, savanna

s, marshes, and riverbanks. They are also known to inhabit urban areas and can be seen near garbage dumps or feeding on carrion in African cities.

Feeding Habits

Marabou storks are primarily scavengers and opportunistic feeders. They have a diverse diet that includes carrion, garbage, offal, small mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, insects, and even baby crocodiles. They have a specialized digestive system that allows them to consume rotting and putrid food without getting sick.

Breeding Behavior

Marabou storks form monogamous pairs during the breeding season. They build large nests made of sticks and vegetation on trees or cliffs, often in colonies with other stork species. The female typically lays two to three eggs, which both parents take turns incubating for around 30 days. The chicks are semi-altricial, meaning they are born relatively undeveloped and rely on their parents for food and protection.

Social Behavior

Marabou storks are gregarious birds and often gather in large groups, especially around food sources like carcasses or rubbish dumps. These groups can consist of hundreds of individuals and may include other scavengers such as vultures and other stork species. They are generally silent birds, but during the breeding season, they can produce a variety of grunts, croaks, and bill-clattering sounds.

Conservation Status

The Marabou stork is currently listed as "Least Concern" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Although their population is decreasing in some regions due to habitat loss, disturbance, and persecution, they have a wide distribution and are adaptable to various environments, which helps maintain their overall population stability.

Cultural Significance

Marabou storks have cultural and religious significance in some African societies. They are sometimes associated with death, as their scavenging habits and presence around carrion led to beliefs that they are carriers of bad luck or symbols of witchcraft. However, they are also considered sacred birds in some cultures and are believed to bring good fortune.

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Physical Characteristics of Marabou Stork

  1. Size: It stands approximately 4.5 to 5 feet (140 to 152 centimeters) tall and has a wingspan of about 9 to 10.5 feet (275 to 320 centimeters).
  2. Featherless Head and Neck: One of the most striking features of the marabou stork is its featherless head and neck. Instead, it has bare skin covered in loose, wrinkled, pinkish or reddish flesh. The lack of feathers helps to keep the bird cleaner when scavenging for food.
  3. Long Bill: The marabou stork has a long, thick, and heavy bill that is dull gray or black in color. The bill is strong and pointed, allowing the bird to catch and consume various types of prey, including small animals and carrion.
  4. Plumage: The marabou stork has a predominantly white plumage covering its body. The wings are black, with black flight feathers and a black tail. The feathers are coarse and not as dense as those of other stork species.
  5. Large Wingspan: The marabou stork has broad wings with a considerable wingspan. This feature enables efficient flight and allows the bird to soar gracefully over large areas in search of food.
  6. Long Legs and Large Feet: The marabou stork has long, strong legs and large feet with sharp claws. These adaptations assist the bird in walking, wading through water, and perching on trees or other structures.
  7. Weight: Despite their large size, marabou storks are relatively lightweight for their dimensions. Adults typically weigh around 11 to 20 pounds (5 to 9 kilograms).

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Scientific Classification of Marabou stork

Kingdom: Animalia (Animals)

Phylum: Chordata (Chordates)

Class: Aves (Birds)

Order: Ciconiiformes (Storks and Allies)

Family: Ciconiidae (Storks)

Genus: Leptoptilos

Species: Leptoptilos crumenifer

Key Locations of Marabou Stork

  1. East Africa
  2. Southern Africa
  3. West Africa:
  4. Central Africa
  5. Rift Valley

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Marabou Stork FAQs

What does Marabou stork eat?

  1. Carrion
  2. Human Waste and Garbage
  3. Hunting
  4. Nestling Birds
  5. Invertebrates

What is a marabou stork called?

It is called 'The Ugliest Bird on the Planet'.
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