It’s not all about the big cats and colourful birds at Shenton Safaris. Sometimes, the humble hamerkop deserves some attention and Syl and his guests are on the case. A muddied waterhole set to dry up within no time in the September and October heat is a fishing haven for birds such as the hamerkop. As the name suggests, this bird has a head that resembles a hammer. Its body is brown in colour and it has a long beak, an excellent tool for fishing in lagoons and watering holes just like the one Syl has found himself at.

Fishing Hamerkop

The group arrive to spot a solo hamerkop with small catfish clutched in its beak. They watch for several minutes as the hamerkop juggles the fish in its beak, drops it on the muddy ground and then proceeds to clean in the shallows of the water hole. Eventually, after the hamerkop has worked up an appetite, it slips the small fish down its throat before continue to fish. Within no time, the hamerkop has made its kill and the whole juggle, drop and clean process begins again.

Hamerkop quick facts:

  • They are 47 – 56 centimetres in length.
  • Generally, hamerkops feed alone or in pairs. Feeding takes place during the day. However, mid-day is spent roosting.
  • Hamerkops flush prey out of hiding by raking heir feet through the waterbed. What’s more, they startle their prey by flapping their wings before using their beak to make the catch.
  • The female Hamerkop lays between 3 and 7 white eggs.
  • A hamerkops nest is very large. What’s more, these birds are obsessive about building lots of them. Even when the adults are not breeding, each pair constructs three to five nests every year.

By Anna Mansfield
Post courtesy of Shenton Safaris

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