Scopus umbretta
Photo by Joachim Huber (Wikipedia)

Common name:
hamerkop (en); ave-martelo (pt); ombrette africaine (fr); ave martillo (es); hammerkopf (de)

Order Ciconiiformes
Family Scopidae

This species is found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, including Madagascar, as well as along the south-western coast of the Arabian Peninsula.

The hamerkop is 55-60 cm long and weighs 400-470 g.

These birds are found in any wetland habitat, including lakes, swamps, rivers, marshes, streams, seasonally flooded ponds, irrigated land such as rice paddies, and even small puddles in gravel roads. They are also found in savannas and forests located near wetlands. They are present from sea level up to an altitude of 2.400 m.

They mostly eat frogs and tadpoles, small fresh water fishes, insects such as grasshoppers, aquatic bugs, beetles and dragon flies, small mammals, the eggs and chicks of other birds, earthworms and shrimps.

Hamerkops can breed all year round, but with a peak in July-January. They are monogamous, with each pair building a solitary nest consisting of a large pile of material, namely sticks, stalks, reeds, grasses, leaves, bark and man-made materials like cardboard and plastic. The nest is typically placed in a tree over or next to water, occasionally on a bridge, dam, wall, house or even on the ground. The female lays 3-9 eggs which are incubated by both sexes for 26-30 days. The chicks are fed by bpth parents and fledge 44-50 days after hatching.

IUCN status – LC (Least concern)
This species has an extremely large breeding range and the global population is estimated at 170.000-1.100.000 individuals. The population trend is stable or increasing, but some populations have unknown trends and, although it may be potentially threatened by a deterioration in wetland water quality caused by the excessive use of pesticides, it has probably benefited from the introduction of man-made impoundments.

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