Scientific Classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Ciconiiformes
Family: Balaenicipitidae
Genus: Balaeniceps
Species: B. rex

The Shoebill or Whalehead (Balaeniceps rex) is a very large bird related to the storks. The unmistakable, prehistoric-looking shoebill is one of the most impressive birds to be found in Africa. A mysterious inhabitant of impenetrable marshes, this tall wading bird possesses a bluish-grey plumage, long black legs, broad wings and muscular neck, but is undeniably dominated by its fantastically unique ‘shoe-like’ bill, from which its common name derives. This imposing greenish-brown bill is huge and powerful at a remarkable 23 cm long and 10 cm broad, ending in a ferociously sharp nail-like hook. The eyes are a pale yellow and at the back of the head exists a small hood of feathers.

Found in extensive papyrus grass and reed swamps and seasonally flooded marshes with floating vegetation, preferring those formed by papyrus. It lives in tropical east Africa, especially Uganda. Its a vagrant in Kenya. It nests on the ground, laying 2 eggs. Shoebills feed in muddy waters, preying on lungfish and similar fish.

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