Uganda is known for its Mountain Gorillas – Chimpanzees – Scenery and Wildlife and it is also home to one of the most sought after bird in Africa– the elusive Shoebill Stork. A most amazing bird with prehistoric looks – its height of up to 150 centimeters (5 feet) and weighs up to 14 pounds – a most amazing bird found in the pearl of Africa – Uganda. The Arabs used to call the Shoebill Stork –“Abu Maruk” meaning father of the shoe – one could call the Shoebill Stork a flying shoe because of his unique bill. Amazingly this prehistoric looking bird can live for 50 some years – the shoebill storks are solitary creatures that form monogamous relationships during mating season which is between April and June. They make a nest on the ground and usually lay two eggs and the both parents share incubation duties for a month before the chicks are hatched and have to be fed for several months before they can forage for food on their own.
The Shoebill stork, a swamp specialist, survives on a diet of mainly of lung fish supplemented by frogs, puddle fish, even baby crocodiles and water snakes all because of the sharp edges on their wide bill. They tend to be nocturnal and do not have webbed feet which gives them a stealth like ability as they are on the hunt for lungfish.
When in flight they have a wide wing span, their heads and necks retracted, they seem sluggish on the ground, but are graceful in the air and when attacking heir prey they pull back their wings and approach their prey in a way demonstrating their strength. Simply an amazing bird.
You can find the shoebill stork even close to Kampala and Entebbe in the Mabamba Swamp, Nabajuzi Swamp in Masaka, In the Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth Park along the Lake Edward Flats, in Murchison Falls Park – down the Nile where it merges with Lake Albert, Lake Mburo National Park, Ziwa Rhino Reserve, Lake Kyoga and Semliki Wildlife reserve. There are about 1000 Shoebill Storks left in Uganda today and their greatest danger is development, sometimes they are hunted by fishermen as they are seen as a bad omen if seen before going out on the lake. Tourism once again can play a great role in their preservation as it is the case with mountain gorillas and chimpanzees.
Uganda is ta birding paradise,it was Sir Fredrick Jackson, a former Governor of the Uganda protectorate and keen ornithologist who once described Uganda as a “hidden Eden….and a wonderland for birds”.