Bird Fact Friday —The Secretarybird, an odd raptor

From page 180 of Birds of Kruger National Park:

The Sectretarybird is a very odd bird of prey in an ancient lineage and its own family. It is a tall, long-legged, crane-like, ground-loving raptor with distinctive quill-like plumes on its head and bright-red facial skin. In flight, the combination of dark trailing edge to the wing, diamond-shaped tail and long spatulate central tail projection is unmistakable. This bird is uncommon in Kruger, numbering about 300 individuals, and is declining throughout South Africa. It prefers open grasslands and savannahs, where it strides about searching for reptiles, small mammals and insects, which it bludgeons with its powerful legs.

The Secretarybird is featured on the South African national coat of arms. Photo credit: Keith Barnes & Ken Behrens.

The strange name of the Secretarybird was once thought to originate from the quills on its head bearing some resemblance to the quill pens used by an office secretary in times past. However, it is more likely that the name is a corruption of saqr-et-tair, the Arabic name for the bird, which translates as ‘hunter-bird’.

Birds of Kruger National Park
Keith Barnes & Ken Behrens

South Africa’s Kruger National Park is one of the largest and most iconic conservation areas in Africa. Habitats range from wide-open savannah and rugged thornveld to broadleaved mopani woodland. This microhabitat variation gives Kruger a phenomenal diversity of some 520 bird species, half of which are resident. From Africa’s most extraordinary eagles, like the scarlet-faced Bateleur, to electric-colored glossy-starlings and jewel-like finches, Kruger offers an avian celebration of form and color. It is also a crucial conservation area, supporting South Africa’s largest viable populations of vultures, eagles, and large terrestrial birds.

This field guide offers a unique window into the world of Kruger’s birds. More than 500 stunning color photographs illustrate the 259 most frequently encountered species, and a habitat-based approach assists in identification. The authoritative text provides key information about identification, habitat, behavior, biology, and conservation. The guide contains information likely to be new to even the most experienced birders, but is written in a nontechnical style that makes it accessible to anyone.

  • An essential guide to Kruger’s birds
  • Perfect for new and experienced birders alike
  • Small, portable format ideal for field use
  • Unique attractive layout with more than 500 stunning color photographs
  • Covers the 259 most frequently seen species
  • Uses a habitat-based approach to aid identification
  • Authoritative and accessible text provides key information about identification, behavior, biology, and conservation


This post is part of a series, explore additional posts here<< Bird Fact Friday — The Spinifex PigeonBird Fact Friday — The Male & Female Black Cuckooshrike >>