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 is the Unofficial National Bird of Uganda is a Scavenger Bird, a sort of Garbage Collector, Undertaker Bird is probably one of the just right names for this bird. You will see them everywhere in Uganda, in Kampala and on a Game Drive on the Savannah, no matter where you find them, they clean up the place and are a necessary part of the environment.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but when it comes to the Marabou Stork – there is one word that most would use what is in Uganda referred to as the Kaloli Birds – “Ugly.”
Visitors 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 greatly to the point that the President wanted them relocated in 2008 – however the Kaloli Birds remained and today you will find them all over Kampala as the unofficial Garbage Collectors of the city. Because of the numbers of Marabou Storks found – one could easily say that not only is it the unofficial Garbage Collector of the City but has become the Unofficial National Bird – since it is a vulture one could make a case that the Bird in its ugliness is a symbol of corrupt officials that like the Marabou Stork feed on any scraps that they might find.
The Marabou Stork is the Unofficial National Bird of Uganda and is also called the “Undertaker Bird” because it looks like an undertaker from behind and it scavenging carcasses. Some in Uganda believe that the number of Marabou Storks increased during the time of Idi Amin when some believe that the Undertaker Birds fed on the bodies of those killed, however that is anecdotal.
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 the city, towns and villages you might see them especially around garbage dumps, slaughter houses, fish processing establishments – it is different in the wild of Uganda where Marabou Storks where they consume carrion, termites, snakes, baby crocodiles and other reptiles, even flamingo chicks and adolescent flamingoes. When the Marabou Storks gather around a carcass with other vultures – other vultures will back off and allow the bad-tempered Marabou Storks to dig in and thrust their heads deep into the carcass.
One of the strange things is that Marabou Stork defecates on its legs and feet giving the legs which are hollow (aids in flight) a whitish color and in Kampala you should avoid parking underneath trees where Marabou Storks are nesting, you just might get it dropped upon as others have here in Kampala.
You will often see the Marabou Stork simply 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 gray black wings and white underpants – hence the nickname – the undertaker. The Marabou has a naked head as most vultures do (adolescents have some wooly like hair on the head) – their head and neck have scabby like black spots, a white neck ruff. One thing or rather two that stand out as rather 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 large 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 wing span as the long legs trail behind, keeping their necks tucked in and 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 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 and during that time the parents go on the prowl looking for prey that is good for the young ones, including prey with bones for calcium.
The Marabou Stork is the Unofficial National Bird of Uganda. The Kaloli Bird – aka – Undertaker Bird is truly an ugly bird – 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 left over 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.