Meet the Secretary Bird, technically known as the Sagittarius Serpentarius. This gorgeous creature with all-natural lashes to die for is taking the Internet by storm because seriously, it needs to star in its own Pixar film already.
Not only is this bird beautiful, but it’s totally badass too. Get this, it is the only bird that stomps its prey to death – including some large and rather deadly snakes.
The large raptor is related to hawks and eagles. It earned its name thanks to the quill-like crests that line the back of its head and resemble 18-century clerks who tucked pens inside of their wigs.
The other feature this beautiful bird is well-known for? You guessed it! Those long lashes – no lash extensions needed.
Brian Connolly has spent the last 10 years documenting the beauty of nature through photos. Spending as much time in nature as he has, Connolly has seen a lot of incredible stuff. And yet, the secretary bird still amazes him.
“From what I’ve seen, the secretary bird is truly unique,” he told Bored Panda in an interview.
“They hunt snakes on the ground by stomping them with their dinosaur-looking legs and talons.”
This breed of bird may be beautiful to look at, but they are vicious carnivorous raptors skilled at taking down a wide variety of prey.
While many birds of prey scavenge dead carcasses and dumpsters for dinner, the secretary bird is unique because it is largely terrestrial, which means it hunts for food on its feet. This is the only bird that stomps its prey to death.
Their ability to kill snakes on the African grassland has been well documented – and how they do it is enough to make your eyes pop out of your head.
In a single day, they may travel as far as 18 miles looking for insects, snakes and other animals to feed their hunger cravings.
Some of their favorite meals include Cobra and Adder snakes. Although they will settle for a variety of lizards, rodents, amphibians, and bird eggs.
Don’t let that beautifully friendly face fool you!
They eat smaller animals whole and attack larger pray by stomping them to death before making a meal out of them.
If prey is hiding out, they will once again employ their big stomping stout-toed feet to bring them out of hiding.
“The challenges of photographing secretary birds are similar to photographing any wildlife,” Connolly explained.
“They move quickly and getting them sharp and in focus is always a challenge.”
The secretary bird is relativity tall, measuring around 4.5 feet (1.35 m) tall and weighing around 7.3 pounds (3.3 kg). Their wingspan is impressive, stretching over 6.5 feet (2m).
Despite their height and wingspan, the secretary bird has a smaller head with a hooked beak. It’s their powerful legs that are a force to be reckoned with, and their main tool for taking down prey.
Instead of grasping toes, which are common among other birds of prey, the secretary bird has thick and blunt toes complete with short curved talons on the ends.
Their coloring is typically a light-blue-gray with red and yellow markings on their face.
You can find this uniquely incredible bird living out on open grasslands and tree-lined savannas. They steer clear of thick shrubbery and dense forests because this type of land limits their ability to hunt on foot.
They use the trees, preferably Acacia trees or thorn trees, to build their nests out of long, flat twigs and grass.
Their nests measure around 8 feet wide and 1 foot deep. It’s common for these birds to expand upon their nests year after year.
Secretary birds spend their days hunting by foot and then retire to their nests at night before the sun sets.
When one secretary bird attempts to court another, they will chase each other with their wings spread up and backward, which looks similar to when they chase prey.
A female secretary bird can lay two to three oval and roughly textured eggs over the course of two to three days. The female will sit on the eggs for 45 to 50 days before they hatch.
A baby secretary bird won’t start flapping his or her wings until it reaches two months in age. It’ll develop wing feathers just short of three months old.
Baby birds spend the majority of their time tucked safely in their nest, leaving the nest occasionally to go hunting with mom and dad who must show them the ropes – including how to use their big, bad feet!
Perhaps this is the first time you are hearing about the striking secretary bird, but it’s a popular part of culture in Africa where it has been long adored for its appearance, as well as its ability to take down snakes and other pests.
The secretary bird is even an emblem of Sudan and is featured on the coat of arms of South Africa.