Colorful Conundrum – November 2009

Shot of the Month – November 2009

This month I offer this glam head shot of a Yellow Saddle-Billed Stork (SBS).  Such a close up of this bird is a rarity – they are solitary birds that don’t hang out in flocks and generally don’t like company.  Most of my views of these storks have been at great distances and even then they often immediately turn and start walking in the opposite direction.  As a photographer this can be extremely frustrating given how stunningly they are adorned.

This stork is the sub-Saharan counterpart to Sesame’s Big Bird – they are the tallest stork in Africa and males can reach 5 feet in height and have a 9 foot wingspan.  And the colorations! Where to begin?  First we have that massive brilliant red and black bill that is a great weapon for spearing fish, frogs, crabs, water-beetles, etc.  On top of the bill is a bright yellow plate that resembles the saddle you might find on a horse.  Next his face, neck, wings and tail feathers are black while his back and chest are white.  Finally, his legs are black but they are offset by reddish colored joints.

In this photo you can get a better view of his wild outfit:








This guy does not “blend.” (Any “My Cousin Vinny” fans out there?)

The male, as shown in the portrait, can be significantly larger than the female and has dark eyes and a bright yellow waddle on each side of the bill.  Females have yellow eyes and no waddle.  These storks are believed to mate for life and apparently have no arguments – SBS have no muscles in their voice box so they are silent.  Mating couples can communicate, however, by rattling their bills together.

It seems counter intuitive that such a solitary, shy, silent bird would be decked out in such a brilliant, ostensibly boastful display that demands notice and attention.

Another mystery of Mother Nature…