Borderline Terrifying Facts About The Shoebill Bird

It's common for scientists to publish some report that says dinosaurs and birds had a lot in common physically. For some people, that might make dinos seem less terrifying. But in some cases, it makes birds seem a little scarier. One example is the shoebill stork, a species that many consider the scariest bird to walk the planet.

If you’re looking for a modern-day dinosaur, then the elusive shoebill stork might be the closest you'll get. The shoebill bird is native to the marshes of East Africa. It's a masterful hunter and endangered species, but it's also a frightening creature to the inhabitants of the lands it occupies. If you want to understand just how bone-chillingly terrifying nature can be, then here are some reasons why the shoebill stork is a scary bird that you'd never want to encounter.

  • Shoebill Chicks Fight To The Death After Birth

    Shoebill Chicks Fight To The Death After Birth
    Video: YouTube

    Shoebill birds are shy creatures, so it's rare to see the behaviors of chicks in the nest. Yet, one group of scientists were lucky enough to observe these young birds, and it wasn't as heartwarming as they imagined. They found that many of the nests had two chicks, which were often born about five days apart from each other. So, the first-born chicks are much bigger than the younger siblings. Instead of welcoming the second chick, it's common for the first-born to start a violent rivalry. “On several occasions the older chick attacked its younger sibling, drawing blood,” said BBC producer Alex Lanchester. “It would drive its sibling over to the side of the nest. When the parent arrived it favoured the larger chick, shading it from the sun with its wings and giving it water from its bill. The younger chick was forced out into the heat, and died slowly.”

    For this reason, the mothers often end up raising only one chick. Unfortunately, the younger chick only seems to be preferred by the mother if the older one doesn't survive

  • The Shoebill Decapitates Its Prey Before Eating It

    That goofy-looking bill clapped onto the front of the shoebill’s face may not look very frightening, but it’s actually a lethal tool. Of course, it also looks like a shoe, a fact that has not been lost on any of the civilizations that have run across the feathered creature. The Arabs called it Abu-Markhub, or “father of a slipper.” However, that bill is not to be trifled with.

    Shoebills mostly go after large fish, such as eels, lungfish, and catfish. Yet, they won't hesitate to hunt lizards, snakes, and baby crocodiles, too. After taking the prey's body into its beak, the shoebill opens its bill just enough for its victim to poke its head out. Then, the shoebill clamps down again with its knife-edged beak and removes its prey's head before swallowing the rest.

  • These Often Quiet Birds Can Make Machine Gun Sounds

    These Often Quiet Birds Can Make Machine Gun Sounds
    Video: YouTube

    Shoebill storks are masters of patience. They’ll sit in the water for hours on end, sometimes submerged up to their waists, as they wait for innocent prey to swim by. During this time, the bird remains silent, and its dark feathers often blend into the nearby shadows. So, despite its tall stature, this bird remains hidden well. However, when they're ready to mate, these birds aren't quite as serene.

    When meeting a potential mate, shoebills clatter their bills to create a sound similar to a machine gun firing. It has also been compared to a hippopotamus mating call. This terrifying call is created by vibrating their throats and clapping their upper and lower bills together. It's rare to hear these birds make any sounds at all, but when they do, it's best to keep your distance. After all, they can be territorial, even toward their own mates. 

  • Shoebills Will Fight Alligators And Win

    Shoebill storks most commonly eat large fish, such as lungfish and eels. However, it's not uncommon for them to scoop up meat-eating reptiles too, including monitor lizards and baby crocodiles. These birds have sharp bills that are as sturdy as a wooden clog. Their beaks are wide and spacious, allowing them to easily scoop up smaller crocodiles and decapitate them. 

    Yet, it's not only about hunting to survive. These massive birds also aren't afraid to take on creatures twice their size. If another animal upsets a shoebill stork, the dinosaur-like bird won't hesitate to fight back. Shoebills have been seen fighting adult Nile crocodiles, along with other large birds, including their own species. They don't win every fight they pick, but that doesn't stop them. If food is scarce, they're willing to take on animals of all sizes to get a decent meal.

  • The Shoebill Stork Can Reach Human Heights

    The Shoebill Stork Can Reach Human Heights
    Video: YouTube

    Shoebill storks are not very meaty birds, only topping out at around 16 pounds. Yet, the shoebill stork is still extremely large in terms of height. They routinely reach nearly 5 feet in height, and their wings can stretch to more than 7 feet in width. Their sharp beaks are also unnaturally large for their bodies, measuring 8 to 12 inches long and 4 to 5 inches wide.

    These birds tower over children and can even stare some adult humans in the eye. They can stand for hours on end without blinking their golden eyes, so their resting face might seem like a "death stare" if it's at your eye level.

  • Some Cultures Believe These Birds Are Bad Luck

    Despite having few predators, shoebills are an endangered species. There are less than 5,000 of these birds left, and humans are mostly to blame. Shoebill habitats are being destroyed, and the birds are often hunted by humans, too. Yet, one of the biggest reasons for their critical condition is centered around a superstition. 

    Many individuals believe that these birds are bad luck. It's assumed that a shoebill along the shore will bring bad luck to fishermen for the day. Many native tribes will purposely kill the shoebills to cleanse their land from the "bad omens" that these birds bring. Sadly, these practices have led to the birds becoming extinct in many parts of Africa.