10 Things You Should Know About Marabou Storks - The Undertaker Bird

The idea of storks usually conjures up adorable images of white-feathered birds delivering bundles of joy. The reality of the Marabou stork is anything but. The large African bird - aptly nicknamed the "Undertaker Bird" - looks dead, but is actually a garbage-eating, pooping-all-over-itself, living nightmare. Marabou storks have been voted the ugliest bird on Earth, and given its poop-covered feet and scabby head, that title might be considered generous.

Despite its revolting looks, Marabou storks aren't all trash and feces, and they are by no means the only hellspawn bird. Their disgusting habits play an integral part in Africa's ecosystem, and they do have the adorable habit of mating for life. Plus, the Marabou stork population is in an upswing, so you may encounter one of these Undertaker Birds sooner than you think.


  • The Marabou Stork Poops All Over Its Own Legs On Purpose

    If you thought your friend who doesn't wash her hands after using the restroom was gross, wait until you hear about the Marabou stork's bathroom habits. This guy defecates on himself, a habit called urohydrosis.  

    The Marabou doesn't poop all over itself because it doesn't care about hygiene, though. Coating their legs with their own feces regulates their body temperature, so this gross habit actually serves a purpose. Their legs aren't actually white at all - it's just poop.

  • They Are Garbage Disposals That Eat Everything From Baby Flamingos To Trash

    They Are Garbage Disposals That Eat Everything From Baby Flamingos To Trash
    Photo: Charles J Sharp / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

    Marabou storks will eat anything. This isn't a hyperbolic statement; anything and everything is fair game when it comes to the menu.

    The Undertaker is a carnivore, right up there with the T-Rex. Live or dead, they'll eat anything. That list includes dead animals of all kinds, including and up to elephants and young crocodiles; things as small as termites; and even human waste. The Marabou will also eat live flamingo babies right out of the nest and have been spotted cruising landfills for a bite. 

  • It Uses A Creepy, Inflatable Red Pouch To Attract Mates

    It Uses A Creepy, Inflatable Red Pouch To Attract Mates
    Photo: Lip Kee Yap / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

    Marabou storks mate for life, which is adorable; the means these birds use to attract their mates are anything but. The large pouch hanging from the stork's neck isn't just decorative - it inflates during mating and allows the stork to call out for love. The pouch is a disturbing 18 inches long and connects to the left nostril, allowing the bird to make a guttural, croaking noise to woo potential mates.

    After mating, eggs incubate for about a month, and both the mother and father take care of the nest. The stork typically nests high in trees. The chicks, once hatched, won't reach maturity until four years old, which is pretty old for a bird. The chicks will stay in the nest for a few months, and the parents will bring back a more selective menu of meat to their young.

  • Its Head Looks Like It Is Rotting For A Useful Reason

    The Marabou stork isn't a victim of premature aging or bad genetics, despite how infected its head may appear. In fact, their head is bald to prevent infections. Turns out, sticking one's head into a dead animal isn't the most hygienic thing in the world, so Marabou storks developed bare heads to prevent blistering and infections.