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Animal Essentials

Scientific Name:
Scopus umbretta
Park Location:

Wide range within Africa south of the Sahara, Madagascar and coastal south-west Arabia

Wetland habitats, including irrigated land such as rice paddies, as well as in savannahs and forests.

Amazing Facts

Its name comes from the shape of its head as it closely resembles that of a hammer. It has a pointed bill and a crest at the back of its head to give it a ‘T’ shape.
It is known in some cultures as the lightning bird which has greatly assisted with their conservation. Kalahari Bushmen believe that trying to rob a Hamerkop's nest would result in them being hit by lightning. It is also perceived that an inimical god called Khauna would not like anyone that killed a Hamerkop.

The Hamerkop is a brown, medium sized bird native to most central and south African countries and is fantastic at building nests. Even though it is a fairly small animal, it can construct a nest that can reach 1.5 metres across.

It will collect up to 10,000 sticks and arrange them in a mound so strong that it could support a human’s body weight. The entrance to the nest will be concealed to make sure that any chicks or eggs found in there would be kept hidden and out of reach from any potential predators.

In the Hamerkop enclosure here at Flamingo Land, there may not be 10,000 sticks that the birds are able to collect. Therefore one of the zoo keepers’ tasks is to collect sticks on behalf of the birds and put them in their enclosure, so the birds are able to select the ideal sticks to make their nests with. This is an extremely important task to make sure that our birds here are able to perform natural breeding behaviours.

Although the population numbers of this particular species are not considerably low, it does still face some threats in the wild. Pesticides can affect the water quality in the Hamerkops’ habitat which may have an impact on the number of fish and amphibians available for it to feed on. It is also hunted in Nigeria for uses in traditional medicine.

Threat Status

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