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The Elusive – Ancient Appearing Shoebill Stork of Uganda

Posted by on March 1, 2021

The Prehistoric looking Shoebill Stork of Uganda

Best Places where to spot the elusive Shoebill Stork in Uganda 


Shoebill Stork of Uganda Uganda is the Best East African Country where you can readily see the Shoebill Stork in various parks and other places while on a Safari. 

The Shoebill Stork (Balaeniceps rex), also known as whale head, whale-headed stork, or shoe-billed stork, is an enormous stork-like bird. It derives its name from its massive shoe-shaped bill. The early Arab, Swahili Traders, called the Shoebill Stork “Abu Maruk,” meaning the shoe’s father. 

The Shoebill Stork of Uganda seems surreal, eerily prehistoric, something out of Jurassic Park. The bird is over four to five feet tall, has yellow-green eyes, and a massive shoe-shaped bill giving an almost cartoonlike appearance. 

Some say that the Shoebill Stork looks like an old university professor. He is big-nosed, peering over his spectacles. Very serious, very respectable. From almost any other angle, though, he’s a remarkable sight.

Shoebills have a little bit of an identity crisis. On the one hand, they might look stork-like; taxonomically speaking, they share more traits with the Pelecaniformes (herons and pelicans), and molecular studies have found the hamerkop to be the closest relative of the shoebill.

The Shoebill is primarily found in East Africa’s swamp and marshlands, especially in Uganda. Due to its appearance, he is one of the most sought-after birds in all of Africa.

In East Africa and especially in Uganda, the Shoebill Stork, due to its ancient appearance, is one of the most sought-after birds by birdwatchers and tourists.


The Shoebill Stork of Uganda is a swamp specialist, survives on a diet of mainly of lungfish supplemented by frogs, puddle fish, even The Elusive - Ancient Appearing Shoebill Stork of Ugandababy crocodiles, and water snakes the sharp edges on their broad bill. They tend to be nocturnal and do not have webbed feet, which gives them a stealth-like ability as they are on the hunt for lungfish.

When in flight, they have a wide wingspan, their heads and necks retracted, they seem sluggish on the ground but are graceful in the air. When attacking their prey, they pull back their wings and approach their prey in a way, demonstrating their strength. 

There are about one thousand plus Shoebill Storks left in Uganda today. Their greatest danger is development. Fishermen sometimes hunt them as they are seen as a bad omen if seen before going out on the lake. Tourism can play a significant role in their preservation, as is the case with mountain gorillas and chimpanzees.

Uganda is a birding paradise. It was Sir Fredrick Jackson. A former Governor of Uganda and a keen ornithologist. He is the one who described Uganda as a “hidden Eden and a wonderland for birds.” The Pearl of Africa is the best to see the Elusive – Ancient Appearing Shoebill Stork of Uganda.

There is no other area in all of Africa that can match the variety of bird species that Uganda offers. That includes the flying shoe, the Shoebill Stork, one of the world’s most sought-after birds. Uganda, known for gorillas, chimpanzees, tree-climbing lions, is also home to fascinating birds, the elusive shoebill stork.


The Shoebill Stork of Uganda’s distinguishing feature is its massive shoe-shaped bill. It has a razor-sharp curved hook at the end of it. The bill is used to strike their prey.

They spend most of their day foraging for food. They feed on lungfish, tilapia, water snake but will also consume frogs, small monitor lizards, baby crocodile’s mollusk, and carrion,

They hunt their food by standing and waiting and by slowly wading. When prey is spotted, the shoebill stork will collapse forward and downward with its bill striking the prey and coming back up with fish, shaking off any vegetation. The prey is typically decapitated before being consumed by the shoebill.

Shoebill Storks are mostly silent. They make noise only when they clap their bills together rapidly to greet another bird or call out to their young.

Shoebill storks are solitary and mate for life. You will not see flocks of the shoebill. Count yourself lucky if you come across both the male and female.  Their lifespan is over thirty-five years in the wild.

Though large, they can fly, and they do for short distances in their territory. Their wingspan will be over eight feet wide.

The mating season is between April and June. It is during that times that nests are built. The shoebill will breed once a year. One to three flaky whitish eggs are laid. However, only the strongest will survive. The adults give their chicks regurgitated food one to three times per day. More often, as the chicks grow older.

They are also at risk of being captured in the wild for the illegal bird trade. Fishermen sometimes hunt them as they are seen as a bad omen if seen before going out on the lake. Tourism can play a significant role in their preservation, as is the case with mountain gorillas and chimpanzees.


Protecting the Shoebill Stork in Uganda

When it comes to knowing how many shoebills there are left in the wild, it comes to estimates and no hard count. Often shoebill storks will are scattered in inaccessible areas of East Africa, including Uganda. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature estimates that there are only between 3,300 and 5,300 adult shoebills left globally, and the population is going down.

In Uganda, it is estimated that there less than a thousand shoebill storks are remaining. The greatest threat to Shoebills is habitat destruction.  They have specific habitat needs for nesting and foraging, and their swamps and marshes are being rapidly converted to agricultural land and cattle grazing. Fishers disturb the shoebill’s habitat, especially their feeding areas.

They are also at risk of being captured in the wild for the illegal bird trade. Fishermen sometimes hunt them as they are seen as a bad omen if seen before going out on the lake.

Tourism can play a significant role in their preservation, as is the case with mountain gorillas and chimpanzees.


 Best Places where you can see the Shoebill Stork in Uganda

Places such as Mabamba Swamp on Lake Victoria, Lugogo Swamp in Ziwa Rhino Reserve, the lower Nile in Murchison Falls Park in the Nile Delta, Queen Elizabeth Park, and Lake Mburo National Park, Nabajuzi Swamp in Masaka, Lake Kyoga, and the Semiliki Wildlife reserve. They are all places and parks where you can spot the most sought-after bird in East Africa – the Shoebill Stork.

Uganda is a birding paradise. It was Sir Fredrick Jackson. A former Governor of Uganda and a keen ornithologist. He is the one who described Uganda as a “hidden Eden and a wonderland for birds.” The Pearl of Africa is the best to see the Elusive – Ancient Appearing Shoebill Stork of Uganda.

There is no other area in all of Africa that can match the variety of bird species that Uganda offers. That includes the flying shoe, the Shoebill Stork, one of the world’s most sought-after birds.

Uganda, known for gorillas, chimpanzees, tree-climbing lions, is also home to one of the fascinating birds, the elusive shoebill stork…


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