Hamerkop (Scopus umbretta)

hamerkop

In the walkthrough aviary.

Fast facts

Status Least Concern

Size 56cm

Weight 470g

Gestation 28-32 days

Young 3-6 eggs

Life span Around 20 years

What do I eat?

The hamerkop’s diet largely consists of amphibians (mostly frogs, both adults and tadpoles), small fish, crustaceans (i.e. small crabs), worms and insects.

When hunting for food, it will walk through shallow water seeking its prey. It has also been known to catch its food in flight, plucking tadpoles out of the water.

Where do I live?

Hamerkops are mostly found in Africa (south of the Sahara), Madagascar and southwest Arabia.

They are known to live in a wide variety of habitats including forests, semi-desert environments, marshes and the banks of large rivers. These birds are normally found close to a source of fresh water.

Breeding

These birds are able to breed all year around in East Africa, but in other areas they breed at the end of the rainy season.

Hamerkops mate for life (monogamous) and build their nest between the forked branches of a tree, on cliff ledges, on the ground or in sandbanks. It takes months to build a nest, and both the male and female help out using twigs, stalks, grasses, reeds and sticks. Hamerkop nests are very large (around 1.5m across!) and domed in shape with a large chamber inside with a small hole to get in and out, usually lower down to the side of the nest.

The female will lay 3-6 eggs and both parents will incubate the eggs for 28-30 days with both caring for the chicks once they hatch. The chicks leave the nest (fledge) at 44-50 days, but will come back to sleep at night until about 2 months old.

Predators

Hamerkop chicks and eggs are often eaten by monitor lizards, snakes and birds of prey. Adults are hunted by larger birds of prey like the Cape eagle owl.

To stay safe, hamerkops use their brown colouring to blend in to their environment.

Conservation

Hamerkops are found in good numbers across their range and are not globally threatened. However, they do face threats from poor water quality in some wetland areas due to over use of pesticides.

Did you know?

The nests of hamerkops are known to be used by other animals including bees, reptiles, small mammals (such as genets) and other bird species like barn owls. 

The nest of the hamerkop is the largest domed nest built by any bird species!

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