Most people take one glance at the Shoebill stork and have a hard time believing it’s a living, breathing bird.
I can totally see why; it looks more like a character from a Jim Henson movie, or a prehistoric creature, than a bird that is currently making its home in the African wetlands.
Even Audubon.org calls the Shoebill “The Most Frightening Bird On Earth.”
The Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex) is as big and tall as an average-sized child. Its beak? Massive. Its wingspan? Huge! Its feet? Gigantic!
The Animal Kingdom never ceases to amaze, and it’s easy to see why photos of the Shoebill are going viral and making readers do a double-take…
What’s that there in the distance… standing there like a strange, giant statue covered in grey and blue feathers?
It’s a Shoebill stork, a bird that’s equally beloved as it is feared.
Photos of these bizarre-looking birds have been circulating the internet and causing quite a stir.
Let’s take a closer look…
Okay, maybe not so close.
With its giant beak, massive feet, broad wings and stoic stance, the Shoebill has been long-celebrated by aviary experts and cultures dating all the way back to the ancient Egyptians.
There are between 5,000 and 8,000 Shoebills living in the large swamplands of tropical east Africa.
They can grow up to 60 inches tall… that’s bigger than an average-sized toddler.
Shoebills are known to stand completely still for
hours at a time.
Audubon.org, “The Shoebill will stand there, motionless as a statue, and wait for some poor lungfish or baby crocodile to swim by. Then the bird will pounce forward, all five feet of it, with its massive bill wide open, engulfing its target along with water, mud, vegetation, and probably any other hapless fish minding their own business.”
Thanks to its incredibly sharp jaws, Shoebills will literally decapitate their prey.
They eat other living creatures like catfish and eels, along with lizards and snakes…
…and even baby crocodiles.
“Kinda scary if you didn’t know it was a bird,” one online commenter writes.
I’d say so.
Others can’t help but liken the Shoebill to those evil reptile/bird villains from Jim Henson’s 1982 fantasy film, “The Dark Crystal.”
Below, meet Sushi the Shoebill stork. He’s about to have an encounter with a little girl at the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre in Entebbe, Uganda.
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