Secretary Bird, Sagittarius serpentarius
October 2008

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TAXONOMY

Describer (Date): J. F. Miller (1779)
     Falco serpentarius
; Herman (1783)
     Sagittarius serpentarius

Order: Falconiformes
Family:Cathartidae (New World Vultures)
Family: Pandionidae (Osprey)
Family: Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles,
      Secretarybird)
Family: Sagittariidae (Secretarybird)
Family: Falconidae (Falcons & Caracaras)
Genus: Sagittarius
Species: Sagittarius serpentarius

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Body Weight: 2300 - 4270 grams (5 - 9.5 lbs).
Wingspan: 212 cm, 2.12 m (84 in, 7 ft).
Plumage: Black feathers covering abdomen and
      thighs. Grey feathers on wings, back and head.
      Long black crest feathers and elongated tail
      feathers.
Beak: Hooked aquiline bill.

 

DISTRIBUTION AND STATUS

Range: Widespread south of the Sahara and
      across South Africa. High altitudes in
      Drakensberg to the semi-desert of Kalahari and
      not found in forests or true desert (coastal
      Namib).

Habitat: Prefers short open grassland with
      scattered Acacia thorn trees for roosting and
      nesting. Avoids areas where grass is too dense
      or tall.
IUCN Status: Species of least concern.
CITES: Appendix III
Population in Wild: Unknown, estimated in the
      thousands. 
ISIS captive population

BEHAVIOR AND ECOLOGY

Migration: Non-migratory.
Activity Cycle: Diurnal. Mated pairs hunt together
      during the day, rising late and returning to roost
      roost an hour or two before dark.
Social Groups: Mated pairs occupy territory
      together. Chicks leave parents when mature.
Diet: Diet consists of anything found on the ground:
      grasshoppers, lizards, rats, squirrels, shrews,
      small rodents and birds, eggs, chameleons,
      snakes and small tortoises.
Predators: Humans. Other birds of prey may feed
      on Secretarybird eggs and chicks.

REPRODUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT

Sexual Maturity: Unknown, but expected to be
      3 - 4 years.
Courtship: Courtship may last up to six months
      before egg-laying. Monogamous pairing.
Clutch Size: 2 - 3 eggs.
Nest: Made of sticks and weed stems, thickly lined
      with dry grass.
Hatchlings: Cared for by both parents, eating
      liquid and whole prey from day of hatching.
Fledging: Chicks usually fully developed, with
      duller plumage and yellow (rather than red or
      orange) facial skin.
Longevity: Unknown.

SPECIES HIGHLIGHTS

Feature Facts: The only species in this genus.
      Only bird of prey to hunt exclusively on the
      ground. Crown of crest feathers give the bird
      an unmistakable appearance. Kills prey by
      stamping to death, then swallowing whole.
Society Press: Secretarybird located in the San
      Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park, with one chick
      in 2008.


©2008 San Diego Zoo Global. Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Global makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to library@sandiegozoo.org.


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