The secretarybird (Sagittarius serpentarius), although a raptor, has virtually given up flying and become a proficient ground-based predator. It uses its long legs to stamp its victims to death and is best known for killing snakes. It also eats insects, rats, amphibians, tortoises and lizards, plodding up to 32km a day as it hunts.

The secretarybird is such an efficient pest killer that it is kept in captivity for just such a task. If alarmed it relies on its running speed to escape and only flies if extremely hard-pressed. Secretarybirds mate for life and usually stay in the same nest, adding to it year by year to create huge bundles of sticks commonly seen in acacia trees.

The bird probably got its common name because of its crest feathers, which are thought to resemble the quill pens habitually carried in the wigs of nineteenth-century British legal secretaries.


ARKive photos and videos of the secretarybird

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