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.
It's Coloring Gives It The Nickname Of 'Undertaker Bird'
Human undertakers prepare dead bodies for funerals; Marabou storks eat them. This is one of the reasons the creepy African bird has received the nickname of the "Undertaker." The coloring of a Marabou's feathers also play into the nickname. The black on the back on Marabou's bodies make it look like the large bird is wearing a Grim Reaper worthy cloak.
Their Disgusting Eating Habits Help Prevent The Spread Of Disease
As gross as the Marabou stork's eating habits are, they actually serve a crucial role in the African ecosystem. The Undertaker keeps things clean, as it doesn't mind eating a lone piece of trash here and there. If the Marabou stork didn't eat rotting carcasses and other decaying materials, they would be ripe for bacteria and other fun disease-causing agents.
The Marabou Stork Is Large And In Charge
The Undertaker has one of the longest wingspans in the world. From wing-tip to wing-tip, their span is reported to be an intimidating 11 feet, which is longer than any condor or eagle. The pelican and albatross are the only birds whose wingspans may best the Marabou's. They're also about five feet tall (for perspective, an ostrich is about six feet tall). These tall, gangly birds only weigh about twenty pounds, which somehow only adds to their inherent creepiness.
The Undertaker Bird Is Slowly Taking Over Africa
You are almost certain to see a Marabou stork in Africa, especially in Uganda, where the large creature is seen as an unofficial national bird. Some believe their numbers are actually rising due to the increasing number of garbage dumps and increasing population of humans. They're classified as "Least Concern" in terms of endangerment.