Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis (Saddle-billed stork)

Saalbekooievaar [Afrikaans]; Kandjendje [Kwangali]; Ngwamhlanga [Tsonga]; Zadelbekooievaar [Dutch]; Jabiru d'Afrique [French]; Sattelstorch [German]; Jabiru [Portuguese]

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Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis (Saddle-billed stork)

Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis (Saddle-billed stork)

Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis (Saddle-billed stork)
Saddle-billed stork male. [photo Callie de Wet ] Top right: Saddle-billed stork female, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ]               

Bottom right: Saddle-billed stork female standing next to White-breasted cormorants. (photo Simon van Noort ]                  

Distribution and habitat

Occurs across sub-Saharan Africa, largely excluding the West African coast. In southern Africa, it is uncommon in northern and eastern Botswana, northern Namibia (including the Caprivi Strip), Zimbabwe, eastern South Africa and Mozambique. It generally prefers freshwater marshes, rivers through open savanna, lake shores, pans and flood plains.

Distribution of Saddle-billed stork in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project ( Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

Resident and largely sedentary, although juveniles often disperse far from their parents' territory to temporary pans and vleis.


It mainly eats fish, doing most of its foraging in shallow water, standing still and taking animals that come within striking distance, or wading through water and stabbing prey. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Vertebrates
    • fish
      • Propterus (lungfish)
      • Clarias (catfish)
    • frogs
    • reptiles
    • small mammals
    • birds
      • Anas erythrorhyncha (Red-billed teal)
  • Invertebrates
    • molluscs
    • crustaceans


  • Monogamous, strongly territorial solitary nester, with breeding pairs probably staying together for life.
  • The nest is built by both sexes, consisting of a large platform of sticks and earth, with a central cup lined with grass or reeds. It is typically placed on top of a tall or low tree in a swamp, occasionally using the nest of another bird such as Tawny eagle, Wahlberg's eagle and Secretarybird.
  • Egg-laying season is almost year-round, peaking from August-March.
  • It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for roughly 30-35 days, alternating in 1-6 hour shifts.
  • The chicks are brooded by both parents for up to about 10 days, probably leaving the nest at approximately 70-100 days old. They are fed by both adults, who also regurgitate water for them to drink.


Not threatened globally, but it is Endangered in South Africa and Swaziland and threatened in Mozambique.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 



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