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Balaeniceps rex,Schuhschnabel,Shoebill The Shoebill, Balaeniceps rex also known as Whalehead is a very large bird related to the storks. It derives its name from its massive shoe-shaped bill.
The Shoebill is a very large bird, averaging 1.2 m (4 ft) tall, 5.6 kg (12.3 lbs) and 2.33 m (7.7 ft) across the wings. The adult is mainly grey, the juveniles are browner. It lives in tropical east Africa, in large swamps from Sudan to Zambia.
The Shoebill was added rather recently to the ornithological lists; the species was only discovered in the 19th century when some skins were brought to Europe. It was not until years later that live specimens reached the scientific community. The bird was known to both ancient Egyptians and Arabs however. There exist Egyptian images depicting the Shoebill while the Arabs referred to the bird as abu markub, which means one with a shoe. Clearly, this refers to the striking bill.
Shoebills feed in muddy waters, preying on lungfish and similar fish. They nest on the ground, laying 2 eggs.
The population is estimated at between 5,000 and 8,000 individuals, the majority of which are in Sudan. BirdLife International have classified it as Vulnerable, the main threats being habitat destruction, disturbance and hunting.
The Shoebill is one of the bird taxa not easily classified. Traditionally allied with the storks (Ciconiiformes), it was retained there in the Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy which lumped a massive number of unrelated taxa into their "Ciconiiformes". More recently, the shoebill has been considered to be closer to the pelicans (based on anatomical comparisons; Mayr, 2003) or the herons (based on biochemical evidence; Hagey et al., 2002). The fossil record does not shed much light on the issue, as usual when dealing with birds. So far, two fossil relatives of the shoebill have been described: Goliathia from the early Oligocene of Egypt and Paludavis from the Early Miocene of the same country. It has been suggested that the enigmatic African fossil bird Eremopezus was a relative too, but the evidence for that is very spurious indeed. All that is known of Eremopezus is that it was a very large, probably flightless bird with a flexible foot, allowing it to handle either vegetation or prey.Source:Wikipedia
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