110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
Natives of African and Madagascar; one can be found in Jacksonville
By Lynn Bowen
posted Dec 8, 2013 - 8:30:17am
The very interesting hammerkop that lives at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is really an obsessive-compulsive nest-builder!
How fascinating to learn that in their natural habitat of Africa and Madagascar, these birds build large nests in trees. The nests are 5 to 6 feet across and the same in depth. They use as many as 10,000 sticks, plus twigs, grass, dung and dead plant stems! They decorate the outside with bright-colored objects, bones or cloth.
First, male and female hammerkops build a platform of sticks, then a wall, then a domed roof. The nest will have a mud-plastered entrance 5 to 7 inches wide in the bottom that leads through a tunnel that is up to 2 feet long. That tunnel leads into a nesting chamber large enough for the parents and young.
Hammerkops construct three to five nests per year even if they are not breeding. Wow! The female lays three to seven eggs when breeding time arrives.
In someone’s opinion, the hammerkop’s head resembled a hammer, and thus it was named. This medium-sized wading bird is 22 inches long, and weighs 1 pound. The bird is drab brown, long-necked, and long-legged, and has a short tail and big, wide wings.
When it soars, it stretches its neck forward. But when it flaps its wings, it coils its neck back. Its outward appearance might be plain, but its habits are not!
These interesting birds live either alone or with a mate. Fish, shrimps, frogs, insects and rodents are their diet. They often sit on hippopotamuses’ backs searching for frogs.
Since many superstitious people think that it is bad luck to kill hammerkops, they are somewhat protected!
These extraordinary builders get first prize in the bird world for their amazing nests!
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at email@example.com.
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