Secretary Bird – Interesting Facts to Know About Killer Queen Of Africa

Tanzania is one of the magical countries of the African Continent that is sealed with many surprises. The country isn’t only a dream destination amongst the safari and wildlife lovers; it is also a dreamland for Secretary Bird.

If you are a bird lover then Tanzania Safari can be a magical holiday for you. The country hosts around 1114 bird species out of which 30 are endemic, 44 are accidental and four have been introduced by humans.

A trip to Tanzania Destinations will introduce you to many surprises, and we are presenting one iconic surprise in this section today. Introducing the unique hunting feathers of African Sky; the Secretary Bird. Let’s learn a few interesting things about Secretary Bird; 

The Secretary Bird Iconic Name

Secretary Bird is one of the iconic birds you will meet in the savannahs of Tanzania. The name of the bird is as interesting as it looks. The origin of its name is quite debated; there are 2 interesting facts behind the name of this bird.

While one theory suggests that the name was given due to its looks that resemble the 1800s official secretaries. They wear grey tailcoats and dark knee-length pants along with a goose-quill pen behind the ear. As the secretary bird’s feathers in the back of the head resemble the quill pen behind the ear the bird got its name as secretary bird.

Another theory says that the name was derived from the Arabic word “saqr-et-tair” which means hunter bird that eventually pronounced as secretary.

Well whatever the reason might be, the bird is the iconic species you can meet in Tanzania’s national park.

Secretary Bird Physical Structure

Secretary Bird flying

The long-legged secretary bird’s body construction resembles a lot with the attire of secretaries in the offices, so much that it got its name as “secretary bird”.   Few things about them are:

  • These birds reach up to a height of 4.1 to 4.9 feet
  • The wings of the birds reach up to 6.9 feet
  • Secretary bird weigh up to 5 to 9.4 pounds 
  • Secretary birds have thick scales on their legs to protect them from snake bites
  • This bird has an eagle-like head with a hooked bill
  • From a distance, the bird resembles a lot with crane
  • The toes of the bird are thick and have curved talons on the ends
  • They have thick visible feathers around their eyes that look like eye-lashes
  • The feathers on the back of their head and thighs are black
  • They live up to 10 to 15 years in the jungle and 19 years in captivate

They Are Born To Hunt

Secretary Bird hunting a snake

These largest terrestrial birds are furious hunters. Unlike other hunting birds they don’t hunt from the sky rather they hunt on the ground. Interestingly these birds use their legs to hunt. Their legs are designed in such a way that it acts as a strong weapon to use in hunting.

After a few hours of sunrise, secretary birds fly to start their hunting, they can generate 195 N Kick force which is five times more than their body weight & hard enough to kill their prey. The stomping method is usually used by the bird while hunting big lizards or snakes. 

With such a furious kick force, It can kill its prey in only 10-15minutes fight. Their unusually long legs which are nearly twice as long as other ground birds help in the unique stomping hunt method and with an intact time of just 15 milliseconds, can crush the skull of a snake even Faster than you blink.

Earning the title of “devil’s horse” secretary birds are fast runners. The speed helps them to trace their prey, they can run very fast and can travel 18 miles per day to hunt.  

After catching their target they usually stomp on their back or sometimes strike with their bill. Once the prey is dead the bird shallow it completely. While attacking their prey they used to spread the wings and raise the feather crest on the back of their head.

The Mating Season

Bird couple

Secretary bird couples can be spotted on the top of Acacia trees in the Tanzanian savannah gently stroking each other in the mating season However, the mating of the Secretary bird hasn’t seen by anyone.

Secretary birds usually mate and lay eggs between March to June. Usually, males try to attract females in the mating season. Males Secretary birds usually give croaking calls while displaying their beauty to attract the female. They also perform Arial shows and dance around with their wings outstretched to attract the females for mating.      

At once the female secretary bird can give 1 to 3 eggs and she does it every 2 to 3 days. The eggs hatch respectively in order with which day it was laid, the eggs were hatched by the females only.

Family life

Nest Of secretary Bird

These birds are great parents and quite family-oriented.

The secretary bird’s nest can be spotted above the highest point of Acacia trees. Both the male and female give their contribution to building a large nest that reaches up to 8 feet or more. The nest is mostly made out of twigs, sticks, animal fur and dung, leaves, and grasses. The male used to collect material for the nest and the female’s duty is to place it properly to make the nest.     

Unlike other birds, Secretary birds raise more than one baby at a time. The first few weeks either male or female stays inside the nest near to their chicks. Till 40 days the parents of Secretary birds tear up meats into small portions for their baby to eat. After 40 days of birth, the babies learn to eat small mammal and reptile parts left by their parents in the nest.

Secretary Bird Speed

Secretary bird can run faster than other birds of Tanzania for which this bird has earned another name “Devil’s Horse”.

There is no specific maximum speed observed by Secretary Bird, but they have the capacity to travel 30-40 Kilometres per day.

Interesting Facts About Secretary Bird:

  • The female lays 1 to 3 eggs that take 42 to 46 days to hatch
  • After hatching the birds weigh up to 56 to 83 grams
  • Secretary bird started looking like one after 10 days and after 40 days it looks like a complete secretary bird
  • The cheeks learn how to fly, kick, and hunt from their parents 
  • Eggs differ in size from 68 to 92 mm in length and 52 to 61 mm in width

Where To See in Tanzania Conservation

Secretary birds are widely common and protected in many African countries. The bird was protected in 1968, under the Africa Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.  As the bird is quite common there is a fair chance to locate them in various national parks in Tanzania.

Some quick facts about Secretary Bird

  • Secretary birds are territorial and occupy areas of around 40 – 50 square kilometers.
  • Although the secretary bird is a good flyer, it spends most of its time on the ground.
  • Before a fly, it takes a long run-up just like a plane to take off
  • Secretary birds are silent nearly all of the time, the only sound they make is a croaking sound when displaying for a mate.
  • They roost in tall trees at night to sleep.
  • Secretary birds have thick scales on their legs to protect them from snake bites
  • The taxonomic name of the bird is Sagittarius serpentarius which means the archer of snakes
  • In-flight, their long legs trail behind them in the air
  • These birds are endemic to Africa
  • Secretary birds can travel up to 20miles a day to hunt

Secretary birds are one of the endemic species of the African Continent, however; one can spot some in other countries’ zoo. But if you want to spot these birds in their natural habitat and see the real action come to visit Tanzania Destinations where you can watch the real game. For More Infomation About Tanzania Safari Tours visit @

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