Creature of the Week #10: Hammerkop

For the handyman of the bird world, look no further than the Hammerkop Scopus umbretta. In fact, handyman is the wrong word. ‘Shipbuilder’ is probably more appropriate, as this wader of African & Malagasy wetlands holds the record for the heaviest nest. These enormous structures can reach almost 2 metres in length and be comprised of over 10,000 sticks, and are capable of supporting a man’s weight quite comfortably. The exhaustive effort of constructing it is rewarded with a far more secure place to roost and rear eggs, with the nest itself being a cavity within accessed through a small hole. This security afforded can also be its weakness however, with other bird species’ such as barn owls being known to evict the previous occupants and take up residence instead.

Bar it’s huge, hammer-like bill that gives the bird its name, the hammerkop at first glance may seem like just another common-brown-job of the wading birds. But this great feat in behavioural evolution just adds to a myriad of examples in nature as to why organisms shouldn’t be judged by appearances.

(Photo taken at Marwell Wildlife)

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