Hamerkop (Scopus umbretta)


In the walkthrough aviary.

Fast facts

Status Least Concern

Size 50-56 cm tall

Weight 415-430 g

Gestation 28-32 days

Young 3-6 eggs are laid

Life span Around 20 years

What do I eat?

The hamerkop’s diet is largely comprised of amphibians, especially frogs and tadpoles, and small fish. They also eat worms, insects and crustaceans such as shrimp.

Where do I live?

Hamerkops occur throughout most of tropical Africa, Madagascar and south west Arabia. They are found in a range of habitats, ranging from forest to semi-desert, though they always live close to water. They are most often found in wetland areas of savannah and woodland. They forage in shallow water, and require trees for nesting and roosting.


These birds build enormous, complex nests. The nests are usually built high up in the fork of a tree, but are sometimes on a cliff or even on the ground. Hamerkops will spend 3 to 6 weeks creating their nests, but the reason why they spend so much time and energy building such elaborate nests is unknown. 3 to 6 eggs are laid in a central chamber within the nest, which is accessed by a small opening below the nest. The young fledge between 44 and 50 days old.


Hamerkops don’t currently face any major threats. They are thought to be protected from persecution because they are regarded with great respect and superstition. They may actually be benefitting from the creation of wetlands such as ponds, paddy fields and dams, which has increased their habitats for feeding. They face potential threats from the over use of pesticides which affects water quality.

Did you know?

Hamerkops are reported to be the source of more legends and superstitions than any other bird.

Hamerkop nests are so strong that they can support the weight of a heavy man! They can reach up to 100 times the body weight of the bird.

The roof of hamerkop nests are often topped off with a wide assortment of materials, from bits of skin and bone to paper, plastic, clothing and general rubbish.

Many animal species make use of hamerkop nests. Some animals such as Verreaux’s eagle owls and barn owls may take over the nest, preventing the hamerkops from using it. Other species such as Egyptian geese, comb ducks and grey kestrels will use old nests, and genets, mongoose, pythons and monitor lizards have also been known to use them for resting and sleeping in.

Help Us

We are facing our toughest challenge to date and our road to recovery will be long.

You can help us through these difficult times...

Donate now

Penguin Face to Face

This experience was something I’ve always dreamt of doing but never thought I’d be able to. The staff made it such an enjoyable time, answered all my questions, and were there with me every step of the way if I needed them. And of course, special thanks to all the penguins… Read full reviewBeth, 23rd January 2020