Big birds with even bigger personalities

Updated: Jan 16, 2023

The Kori bustard, Ardeotis kori, and the Secretarybird, Sagittarius serpentarius, are the world’s heaviest flying bird and the world’s tallest raptor respectively. Although the two are in different families, both are mostly terrestrial birds with a niche for hunting and feeding on foot. The Kori bustard’s distribution lies in southern and east Africa while the Secretarybird has a much wider range that encompasses the whole of sub-Saharan Africa except for the dense forests found in central and west Africa. Both can be found in open savannah and grassland habitat types. Now, besides what we just learned, what else do Kori bustards and Secretary birds, have in common? Maybe the images below can give you a hint:

Are you still a little puzzled? Well, then play the video below:

For the last couple of weeks, I have been spending time coding the behaviour of mammals at waterholes through video feed to observe the effects of artificial light on wildlife behaviour. What I did not expect to see was springbok and even oryx displaying vigilance towards these big birds and occasionally being intimidated into avoiding the general direction of where said bird is or into leaving the waterhole entirely. It seems that both Kori bustards and Secretarybirds have a knack for holding their own against relatively larger mammals. Kori bustards spread their wings and lift their tail feathers to appear bigger, ergo more intimidating whilst Secretarybirds stand to their full height and hope that is intimidating enough. Both have perfected what I have nicknamed the ‘I got here first’ stare that they often point towards other wildlife approaching the waterhole or approaching them. They don’t always succeed but when they do, it is quite impressive. As the saying goes: what you don’t have in stature, you can make up for in attitude! It helps to be nearly as tall as the average springbok or oryx (at shoulder height) and most importantly, to have wings when all else fails.

A Kori bustard giving a springbok the infamous ‘I got here first’ stare.