You probably wouldn’t win a staring contest with it, though you’d be hard pressed to look away. Taller than a mailbox, with an eight-foot wingspan, the shoebill is quite a kick to observe! This hefty bird with its lesson-in-gray plumage is endemic to swamps and wetlands of Central and East Africa. Solitary in nature, even when paired with another, the birds like their space and will feed at opposite ends of their territory.

But what really gives the shoebill a leg up is its big, bulbous bill, which serves many purposes. Over 7 inches (19 centimeters) long, and nearly as wide, it is also cavernous inside—and a handy container for fish prey, as well as water to douse its eggs or chicks with, as needed. Oh, and it’s a musical instrument! Shoebills perform bill clapping to drive away interlopers and woo mates; males and females have different tones to their “clapping.”

Once classified as a stork—shoebill stork or whale-headed stork—it is now in a Family of its own: Balaenicipitidae. It shares some behavioral and anatomical characteristics with storks, but it is more like herons (Ardeidae), with its powder-downs (a special type of down feathers located on the breast and belly) and its habit of flying with its neck retracted.

This unusual bird is classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which estimates that there are 3,300 to 5,300 mature shoebills remaining. The population continues to decline due to habitat degradation and loss, disturbance (hunting and egg collection) by humans, and the illegal bird trade.

During nesting, the adult shoebill makes awesome machine gun noises. Shoebill makes this loud bill-clattering display to attract a partner; although it may sound scary to humans, it sounds attractive to these birds, especially during nesting season. Shoebills are able to make this sound using a technique known as gular fluttering or the vibrating of the throat muscles to dissipate heat. They clap their lower jaw and upper jaw together to produce a hollow sound. As for chicks, they make a hiccup-like sound that indicates they are hungry.

What Does It Mean When A Shoebill Bows? A shoebill bows in an attempt to attract friendship and make new mates. It is a way in which it communicates a greeting to someone. When people visit a shoebill, they are supposed to bow and shake their heads to show they are of no harm to the shoebill. In response, the shoebill bows back and also shakes its head then makes a clattering sound.

Upon bowing to the shoebill, it allows one to touch it. In the case where any visitor does not bow to the shoebill, it does not give them a chance to touch it and therefore it moves away from them for its safety. This makes it one of the most interesting facts about Shoebill storks.

After traveling from the icy reaches of our Solar System it will come closest to the Sun on January 12 and pass nearest to Earth on February 1. It will be easy to spot with a good pair of binoculars and likely even with the naked eye, provided the sky is not too illuminated by city lights or the Moon. Made of ice and dust and emitting a greenish aura, the comet is estimated to have a diameter of around a kilometer, said Nicolas Biver, an astrophysicist at the Paris Observatory.

Tip: A shoebill is one of the most social animals when you show some respect towards it. It can, however, be one of the dangerous animals when it senses danger, therefore this explains the need to bow before it before you can touch it. When bowing, you are supposed to keep a safe distance between you and the shoebill.

The shoebill (Balaeniceps rex) also known as the whalebill, whale-headed stork or shoe-billed stork, is a very large long-legged wading bird. It has a somewhat stork-like overall form and has previously been classified with the storks in the order Ciconiiformes based on this morphology. However, genetic evidence places it with pelicans and herons in the Pelecaniformes. The adult is mainly grey while the juveniles are more brown. It lives in tropical East Africa in large swamps from South Sudan to Zambia.

The shoebill is a tall bird, with a typical height range of 110 to 140 cm (43 to 55 in) and some specimens reaching as much as 152 cm (60 in). Length from tail to beak can range from 100 to 140 cm (39 to 55 in) and wingspan is 230 to 260 cm (7 ft 7 in to 8 ft 6 in). Weight has reportedly ranged from 4 to 7 kg (8.8 to 15.4 lb). A male will weigh on average around 5.6 kg (12 lb) and is larger than a typical female of 4.9 kg (11 lb).

The comet has spent most of its life “at least 2,500 times more distant than the Earth is from the Sun”, Prince said. The last time the comet passed Earth was during the Upper Paleolithic period, when Neanderthals still roamed Earth. Prince said the comet’s next visit to the inner Solar System was expected in another 50,000 years.


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