The contrast between shoebill stork size vs human size is rather an interesting one. While most birds are small, the Shoebill stork is known to grow to astonishing heights of up to 5.5 feet!
Typically, bird’s heights are measured from the tip of their bills to their tail tips. Unlike most birds, shoebill storks don’t show sexual dimorphism in height.
This means that males and females grow to the exact size of about 4 to 5 feet. On the other hand, the average height of an adult human is about 5 to 7 feet, with a few exceptions. Let’s look at how we compare these birds in size and weight.
Shoebill Stork Size Vs. Human: Our Differences
Although shoebill storks are some of the tallest birds on the planet, they are generally not as tall as adult humans. Their height is considered to be equal to that of most 5th graders. However, some birds can grow to about 5.5 feet, becoming taller than some humans.
Various factors, including diet and regional differences, determine the height of shoebill storks. Birds in regions with high-protein diets tend to grow bigger than others.
While the Shoebill lacks height, its wingspan leaves much to be admired. When fully extended, the wingspan is wide, measuring about 8 feet. This is wider than the measurements of the tallest athletes in the world!
Just like with height, humans weigh significantly more than Shoebill storks. On average, a mature shoebill stork can weigh between 4 to 7 kilograms. However, these birds show dimorphism, with males weighing more than females.
On average, a mature female shoebill stork weighs about 5.6 kilograms, while males weigh 4.9 kilograms. While this is a remarkable weight for birds, it hardly compares to that of humans, who can weigh between 100 to 300 pounds.
Shoebill Storks have little weight because they have hollow bones. This is an adaptation in birds that allows them to take off and stay airborne for a prolonged time.
Similarities Between Shoebills and Humans
Shoebills and humans are two different species with distinct biological characteristics. However, there are some general similarities in their existence as living organisms. Some of the similarities between the two include;
1. Both Humans and Shoebills Are Vertebrates
Both humans and shoebills have vertebral columns as part of their skeletal systems. The spinal column provides support and protection for the nervous system. Additionally, both organisms exhibit bilateral symmetry, which can be split into two halves.
2. Mode of Reproduction
The reproduction process for humans and shoebills begins with distinct males and females copulating. Both organisms exhibit sexual reproduction even though humans reproduce by live birth while shoebills lay eggs.
3. Parental Care
Like humans, shoebills work together as a couple to care for their young ones. They collaborate from the onset by preparing the nest, sitting on the eggs, and later feeding and protecting their chicks.
What does Shoebill Stock Look Like?
The Shoebill is a large bird found in marshy areas of central tropical Africa. The bird has a unique bill, feet, and wings that differentiate it from any other bird.
The Shoebill’s bill is a well-adapted tool built for strength, speed, and precision. It has a distinctive grayish-blue bill shaped like a shoe, with a dark base and tip.
The bill is quite massive and can grow to about 25 to 30 cm long! The upper mandible of the bird’s bill is relatively bigger than the lower, giving it a shoe-like resemblance.
The Shoebill’s bill is highly adapted for feeding in swampy habitats. For instance, the large size of the bill allows the bird to swallow large prey like fish and amphibians easily.
The shoe shape provides a broad, flat surface that makes scooping the prey on the water surface a walk in the park.
The bill is also strong and has sharp edges that allow it to slice through water and vegetation swiftly. Its strength allows the bird to grip and cut through slippery prey found in water.
Despite its large size, the Shoebill can open and close their bills with a lot of precision, making them ferocious hunters.
Shoebills have long, sturdy, and webbed feet, well suited for wetlands and swamps. Long legs enable these birds to feed in relatively deep marshes without drowning.
The webbing between its toes provides buoyancy while the bird stands on floating vegetation or shallow water. It also helps evenly distribute the bird’s weight on each toe as it walks on muddy surfaces.
Their feet are grey and sturdy enough to provide support as the giant bird walks. Their grey color provides perfect camouflage in water as they stand still for long, waiting for an opportunity to strike.
The bird’s toes have long toes and sharp claws. These claws are efficient for grabbing and holding prey while the birds feed. The birds also use these giant claws to manipulate vegetation to create brooding nests.
Shoebills have long wings that enable them to fly and cover considerable distances. When fully stretched, their wingspan can reach up to 8 feet. These wings are strong and large to provide enough propulsion for the giant birds as they fly.
Despite their large wings, Shoebills are not known for their soaring abilities like other large birds of prey. They primarily use their wings for short flights and are more adapted for standing and waiting for prey.
Like many birds, Shoebills use their wings to regulate body temperature. By extending or folding its wings, the bird can control the exposure of its body to the sun or shade, regulating its body temperature.
Shoebills also use their wings for movement in shallow waters through wading. Their wings provide balance and stability.
Another vital use of their wings is nesting. Shoebills use their wings to gather and arrange nesting materials. They also depend on their wings to balance their nests during incubation and brooding.
Shoebill Stock Diet
Shoebills are carnivorous birds whose diet primarily consists of aquatic mammals and some amphibians. The bird is well adapted to feed in swampy habitats, where it is one of the apex predators.
Shoebills are excellent fish hunters. They use their powerful bills to strike and capture prey. They hunt by standing still on floating vegetation or shallow water, waiting for their prey to come close before attacking.
When a suitable fish comes within striking range, the Shoebill swiftly extends its bill and clamps down on the prey—the sharp edges of its bill help to hold the slippery fish securely.
Shoebills also feed on small amphibians like frogs and toads by picking them on the surface of vegetation or water edges. Although not common, they also feed on reptiles, including baby crocodiles, water snakes, and small turtles.
Are Shoebills Social?
Although it is common for shoebill populations to cluster in one area, these birds are highly solitary. Even in their groups, they tend to be territorial, operating close to 20 meters from each other.
Breeding couples among these birds are monogamous. Together, they construct huge nests close to 8 feet in diameter. Female shoebills lay two eggs at the end of rainy seasons, and the couple take turns brooding them.
Due to their solitary nature, it is almost impossible to find more than three nests in one square kilometer. Even breeding couples feed on separate sections of their territory!
Shoebill eggs hatch after one month, giving rise to bluish-grey chicks. Both parents continue to look after the chicks until they are old enough to fend for themselves. In most cases, only one shoebill chick lives to maturity.
Shoebill Fan Facts
- Shoebill’s alias whale head or whale-headed stork is derived from the bird’s scientific name, Balaeniceps rex. This name was conjured from the Latin words Balaena and caput, which mean Whale and head, respectively.
- Shoebills are freshwater swamp dwellers and can be found in central tropical Africa. They prefer less oxygenated swamps as aquatic prey living there is forced to resurface for air. This makes it easy for them to hunt as they stand still for hours, waiting for an opportune time to strike.
- Although they are big, shoebills are pretty friendly to humans. Birders often get an easy time observing these birds at close range, even when they are nesting. As long as there is some vegetation between, shoebills will not be threatened by the presence of humans.
- Shoebills are more closely related to Pelicans and herons than other varieties of storks, like the marabou stork. Genomic studies have placed hamerkops to be the closest relatives to shoebills.
A Shoebill stork size vs human size comparison reveals these birds’ gigantic size. With about 5 feet, shoebills are closely regarded as one of the tallest birds. Apart from its size, the bird also has astonishing survival features that place it at the apex of its food chain.