The Marabou Stork is the Unofficial National Bird of Uganda

Posted by on April 18, 2020

Kaloli Bird – Undertaker Bird – the Marabou Stork is the Unofficial National Bird of Uganda

The Marabou Stork – Africa’s Ugliest Bird  – Beauty is not everything


The Marabou Stork (Leptoptilos (slender wing) crumeniferus (referring to the throat pouch) is the Unofficial National Bird of Uganda. It is a Carrioneater or Scavenger Bird, a sort of Garbage Collector, fulfilling a vital function in the wild and towns.

When most of us think of storks, most of us think of the ones that deliver babies all over the world. The Marabou Stork is neither cute or attractive. It is the ugliest Bird that you have ever seen. It is no wonder they are called the Undertaker Bird.

Undertaker Bird is a just-right description for this Bird since it is a carnivore carrion (dead animal), eater. The Marabou Stork, aka Undertaker Bird with its Halloween-like frightening appearance, is quite a sight. The Marabou Stork with the scabby head, pouch, red button, and poop covered legs.

In Ugandan tradition, it is said that when God created the birds, he took leftover parts and created the Marabou Stork creating Africa’s ugliest Bird.

Why is the Marabou Stork is the Unofficial National Bird of Uganda? In Uganda, corruption is a way of life. President Museveni is addressing the problem in new ways, but it is hard to eradicate. Corrupt officials, police, tax officials, and countless others like the Marabou Stork feed on anything that comes their way. 

 Since it is a vulture, one could make a case that the Bird in its ugliness is a symbol of opportunistic corrupt officials. That like the Marabou Stork, they feed on any scraps that they might find. Hence Ugandans call a corrupt official a Kaloli Bird feeding off of others. Like Marabou Storks, corrupt officials have an insatiable appetite. 


The Marabou Stork is the Unofficial National Bird of Uganda

Visitors to Uganda are often surprised as to how many of these large birds are found within Kampala, especially around garbage dumpsters. The number of Marabou Storks had grown dramatically to the point that the President wanted them relocated in 2008. However, the Kaloli Birds remained, and today you will see them all over Kampala as the unofficial Garbage Collectors of the city. 

Their Habitat is almost everywhere in Uganda. You will see them in towns, and in the Wild, where they are found in wetlands, near rivers, and lakes and on the savannah plains.

From Entebbe to Queen Elizabeth Park-Savannahs, Marshes, and Plains, no matter where you go in Uganda, you will come across the Marabou Stork. 

In cities, towns, and villages, you might see them. Especially around garbage dumps, slaughterhouses, fish processing establishments. It is different in the Wild of Uganda. Here the Marabou Storks consume carrion, termites, snakes, baby crocodiles, and other reptiles, even flamingo chicks, and even adolescent flamingoes. 

When the Marabou Storks gather around a carcass with other vultures. The vultures will back off and allow the bad-tempered Marabou Storks to dig in and thrust their heads deep into the corpse.

If there is a fire on the savannah, Marabou Storks will be there ready to consume the dead animals, snakes.

One of the strange things is that Marabou Stork defecates on its legs and feet. This gives the hollow legs a whitish color. In Kampala, you should avoid parking underneath trees where Marabou Storks are nesting. Why? You just might get it dropped upon as others have here in Kampala.

You will often see the Marabou Stork merely standing around in an almost lazy way. They are not threatening to humans even though they reach a height of 1.5 meters plus, they have grey-black wings and white underpants – hence the nickname – the undertaker. The Marabou has a bald head as most vultures do (adolescents have some wooly like the hair on the head). Their head and neck have scabby like black spots, a white neck ruff. 

Two things that stand out as somewhat unusual are the two inflatable air sacks – there is a bright red one at the base of the neck in the back and a sort of pink like a giant balloon that hangs down from the neck. The bill of the marabou stork is yellowish in color.

When the Marabou Stork flies, you can see the incredible wingspan as the long legs trail behind, keeping their necks tucked in. They look rather elegant as they use thermal up-drafts to give them the lift that they need. However, most Marabou Storks that you will see will not be in flight but standing around. During the rainy season in Kampala, you can see them flying around light posts attempting to get their fill of Nsenene as grasshoppers are called in Luganda.

In regards to noise, they do not have a loud cry or anything of that nature but clacking away, grunting, and are generally rather quiet in nature.

The young hatch during the dry season and the female lays 3 to 5 eggs, and both parents are involved in the incubation process and the young hatch after 30 to 50 days. The young stay with the parents for up to 4 months. During that time, the parents go on the prowl looking for prey that is good for the young ones, including victims with bones for calcium.

The Marabou Stork is the Unofficial National Bird of Uganda. The Kaloli  Bird – aka – Undertaker Bird is genuinely ugly – some would call him Africa’s ugliest Bird – yet wherever you go, you will see them. One person said that when God created the birds, he took the leftover parts and created the Marabou Stork – Africa’s ugliest Bird…Keep this in mind – Scavengers like the Marabou Stork are fast disappearing from the African Wild, and their presence is badly needed to keep things neat and tidy in the African Bush…The Marabou Stork – the Unofficial National Bird of Uganda needs to be protected – unlike its human counterpart that only takes, the Kaloli Bird actually does a useful function and cleans things up…the undertaker Bird of Uganda.