Marabou Stork

Marabou Stork


Leptoptilos crumenifer
Population size
100-500 thou
Life Span
25-41 yrs
4.5-8 kg
120-130 cm
225-287 cm

The Marabou stork is a large scavenger that is found in Africa, often near human habitation, especially landfill sites. It is sometimes called the "undertaker bird" due to its shape from behind: cloak-like wings and back, skinny white legs, and sometimes a large white mass of "hair". The marabou is unmistakable due to its size, bare head and neck, huge bill, a pink gular sac at its throat (crumenifer(us) - means "carrier of a pouch for money"), and a neck ruff. The male and the female are alike, but the young bird is browner and has a smaller bill.










Wading birds


Soaring birds








Not a migrant


starts with


Creepy Animals



Marabou storks breed. in Africa south of the Sahara. They live in both wet and arid habitats and can be found in open dry savannas, grasslands, riverbanks, lakeshores, and swamps. These birds are also frequent visitors to landfills and fishing villages.

Marabou Stork habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Marabou storks are social birds and often gather in groups near lakes or rivers. They are generally silent but may sometimes make grunts, croak with their throat sac or rattle their bills. These large and powerful birds eat mainly carrion, scraps, and feces but will opportunistically eat almost any animal matter they can swallow. Marabou storks feed by day soaring high over the open country looking for food or frequently follow vultures which lead them to carrion. When feeding on carrion, marabous may wait for the vultures to cast aside a piece, steal a piece of meat directly from the vulture or wait until the vultures are done. Marabous will also forage by wading in shallow water using their sensitive bills. When prey touches the bill it snaps shut and the bird swallows its catch. Increasingly, marabous have become dependent on human garbage and hundreds of these huge birds are seen around African dumps or waiting for a hand out in urban areas. Marabous eating human garbage have been seen to devour virtually anything that they can swallow, including even shoes and pieces of metal.

Seasonal behavior
Bird's call

Diet and Nutrition

Marabou storks are scavengers and feed mainly on carrion. However, they occasionally eat other birds including pigeons, doves, pelican and cormorant chicks, and even flamingos. During the breeding season, adult marabous take mostly small, live prey since nestlings need this kind of food to survive. Common prey at this time may consist of fish, frogs, insects, eggs, small mammals, and reptiles such as crocodile hatchlings and eggs, and lizards and snakes.

Mating Habits

dry season
30 days
4.5 weeks
2-3 eggs

Marabou storks are monogamous and form strong pair bonds that last for life. They breed in colonies, starting during the dry season when food is more readily available as the pools shrink. Males attract the female with bill-rattling courtship displays and their throat sac is also used to make various noises at that time. Marabous build a small nest in a tree made of sticks and line it with twigs and green leaves. The female 2-3 eggs which hatch after an incubation period of 30 days. At hatching, the chicks are fed by both parents and fledge between 13 and 15 weeks of age. They remain with their parents for about another 4 months and reach reproductive maturity at 4 years of age.


Population threats

Marabou storks are not endangered at present; however, in Nigeria, these birds are frequently hunted and used in trade at traditional medicine markets.

Population number

According to the Environmental Information Service Namibia research, the total population size of the Marabou stork is around 100,000-300,000 individuals. According to the Oiseaux-birds resource, the total population size of this species was 200,000/500,000 individuals in 2006. Overall, currently, Marabou storks are classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and their numbers today are increasing.

Ecological niche

Marabou storks perform an important natural function in their ecosystem by cleaning areas via their ingestion of carrion and waste; this way they help to control the breakout and spread of various diseases.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The name marabou is thought to be derived from the Arabic word 'murābit' which means quiet or hermit-like.
  • Marabou storks are frequent scavengers, and the naked head and long neck are adaptations to this livelihood; same as with the vultures with which these birds often feed. In both cases, a feathered head would become rapidly clotted with blood and other substances when the bird's head was inside a large corpse, and the bare head is easier to keep clean.
  • Marabou down is frequently used in the trimming of various items of clothing and hats, as well as fishing lures.
  • To cool down during the midday heat Marabou storks defecate on their legs; that’s why its legs appear white color. However, when marabous want to warm up they spread out their wings.
  • Though Marabou storks eat putrid and seemingly inedible foods, they may sometimes wash food in water to remove soil.
  • Marabou storks are attracted by grass fires; they walk in front of the advancing fire and catch insects or small vertebrates that are fleeing from flames.


1. Marabou Stork on Wikipedia -
2. Marabou Stork on The IUCN Red List site -
3. Xeno-canto bird call -

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