Aug 2, 2008


The shoebill (Balaeniceps rex) is a large bird (4 feet tall, wingspan of 7.7 feet) that hails from tropical east Africa. It gets its name from having a shoe-shaped bill.

I've posted on this bird before, and even now I can't really see the shoe-shape of the bill. It's bill is very distintive, but I'm just not seeing it. That duck sure is getting an up-close look, though--someone should ask it.

I assume that since shoebills dine mainly on lungfish and other fish in their native swampland that the duck is going to be just fine (besides, that duck has an ankle tag, which leads me to think this image was captured at a zoo).

Thanks for the info, vaguegirl.

UPDATE: Anonymous discovered who originally took this photo (see link below). It was taken at the San Diego Wild Life Park. The shoebill wasn't trying to eat the duck, but simply trying to move the duck from its path.

Photo source: Mark Kay


Anonymous said...

At first, I thought this image was curious, because it shows a shoebill with what I am sure is a wandering whistling (tree) duck (it could be a spotted tree duck, which are native to New Guinea and the East Indies but I doubt it). Wild birds are often tagged and released for studies. For two reasons, I believe these two birds appear to be in some type of mixed wildfowl collection. First, there seems to be a fence in the background. Second, shoebills are native to east Africa, and wandering tree ducks are native to areas of Australia, Indonesia, and the Pacific Islands, so this image must be from a zoo or wildfowl collection. Shoebills are opportunistic feeders and would certainly try swallowing young waterfowl. I wouldn’t trust them is an aviary of smaller ducks such as teal. Interesting image nonetheless! I enjoy this blog too.

Annica said...

This one reminds me off that pictures where the pelican scoops up a cat... Equally disturbing O_o

Denita TwoDragons said...

Shoebills are probably named after those clogs Dutch people used to wear. They look a bit like them, maybe a little less upturned.

Or maybe the name-giver was on heavy meds. ;-)


Anonymous said...

We have these at my zoo (there are only 2 zoos in the US with them right now - San Diego and Lowry Park in Tampa). Lemme tell ya, when you hear them clap their beaks for the first time, you will be SO careful to never get your hand caught in there. We keep ours with smaller birds (ibis, guineafowl, smaller storks), but any animal kept in a non-native, captive environment may display "surprising" behaviors; ie, just because they don't make a habit of eating waterfowl in the wild, doesn't mean they won't if given a chance.

Anonymous said...

I have a soft spot for shoebills, there's something dodo-like or even prehistoric about them. On the other hand it would be seriously unsettling to find one of them silently watching you with that smile.

Jenn said...

You have seen the vid of the pelican eating the rock dove? (pigeon, in the vernacular)

A meal is a meal is a meal.

Anonymous said...

According to a Mark Kay (, he actually took the photo at SanDeigo Animal Park and assures everyone that the duck was just being moved out of the way.

Still, in the wilds of Africa, they have been known to eat small mammals. If a tasty duck just happened to be in the way.... Why not?

Anonymous said...

Shoebills have got to be the cutest ugly thing ever. I was inspired to make a costume of one; you can see it here:,Aoi_cv_AC08_0295.jpg

I hope I got its patended Evil Glare down pat.

Raging Wombat said...

Great costume, anon. You've got it down pat.