Weird Nature

12 Fascinating Facts About The Secretary Bird, A Snake-Killing Badass  

Eric Luis
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While the name "secretary bird" might not be super intimidating, this snake-killing badass savannah hunter rules over the grasslands of Sub-Saharan Africa. These birds are notorious for being vicious snake killers, making them a predator of predators. These unique-looking birds are the only ones of their kind, terrestrial hunters with long legs and beautiful plumage that can be used to disorient their prey. They are living fossils, basically more evidence that birds are just dinosaurs living among us. They look and hunt similarly to the extinct terror birds, large South American monsters known for being top predators.

These amazing hunters are some of the most interesting and unique raptors alive today, and secretary bird facts can be truly astounding. The secretary bird is a living natural wonder that can teach us about the past, as well as give some patients hope for a brighter future. Their large size, powerful legs, and hooked beaks make them deadly predators, but their strong bonds and monogamous mating habits show that there is much more to this bird than its deadly kick.

These Birds Terrorize Their Prey
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Photo:  Alison Day/Foter

Like the prehistoric terror birds, secretary birds can be extremely intimidating when they hunt. If getting bashed in the face with their ferocious feet wasn't awful enough, secretary birds are known to extend their wings and raise the quill-like feathers on their head while attacking. Not only does this make them look much bigger and scarier, it’s also a life-saving defensive technique.

These birds often target snakes, some of which can be highly venomous, and therefore need to avoid being bitten. With their wings spread, deadly snakes will often strike at the hollow feathers. This is harmless for the bird and acts as a distraction to the snake, who’s venomous bite could be fatal if hits the birds soft, fleshy body.

They Love Kicking Snakes To Death
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Video: YouTube

Secretary birds are perhaps most well known for their exceptionally long legs, which they use to murder snakes and anything else small enough to swallow whole. They hunt using their feet, kicking their prey with tremendous force until it is stunned enough to swallow. This crazy animal attack is particularly good at dealing with venomous snakes, where a single strike to the bird’s body could be fatal. Scientists have studied the power behind a secretary bird’s kick, and what they found out was amazing. They kick in rapid succession, and each kick is so fast it only makes contact with their prey for 15 milliseconds, which is 10 times as fast as the blink of a human eye.

Secretary Birds Can Grow To Over Four Feet Tall
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Photo:  Gary Simons/Pixabay

One of the tallest living raptors, the secretary bird can be found strutting through the savannah on two elongated legs. Estimates very, but some put secretary birds at 4.9 feet tall, although most birds measure closer to four feet. This gives the the distinctive title of having the longest legs of any living bird of prey. On top of their monstrous gams, secretary birds sport an equally impressive seven foot wingspan. 

They Are Being Studied To Possibly Assist In Robotic Prosthetics
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Photo:  Steve Garvie/Wikimedia Commons

The long, slender legs of the secretary bird may make it an unquestionable killing machine, but their unique anatomy may assist in the development of better human prosthetics. The remarkable force generated by these birds has led scientists to believe the mechanics behind them could be used in sporting prosthetics. The quick speed and heavy force could be applied to prosthetics designed to hit and throw baseballs, a novel appliance for such a deadly adaptation.