Monday 9 August 2010

Marabou Stork

Image: Cacophony
Wherever you have human beings, you have rubbish. The more humans, the more rubbish. Where there's a lot of rubbish, a dump or landfill for instance, you tend to get animals gathering to find a morsel of food amongst the trash. A scrap from the scrap. Round my way the most obvious of these are gulls, horribly noisy, pooing all over the place and maybe even flying in to steal a chip from right out of your hand, they're seldom welcome. But at least they're only about a foot long, smaller than the all but the teeniest of tiniest human beings. Certainly adults, anyway. They also don't look too ghastly, even if they're foraging in filth. Spare a thought then for the people of sub-Saharan Africa, for there be Marabou Storks.

The Marabou stork is one ugly looking animal. From behind, its black wings and skinny black legs lend it the 'undertaker bird' moniker. From the front, it gets worse. The head and neck are bald, not in a clean vulture-like way, but with little hairy tufts all around and horrible, blotchy skin. During the mating season that horrible skin is adorned with encrusted dried blood because... well, because... apparently, that's 'good' in some way. To me, it just looks like an older gentleman who's had a terrible accident with a really hot toupee. The Marabou stork also has a large, pendulous gular sac hanging down from its throat. We're accustomed to this in pelicans, and the frigatebird has shown that such a thing can be weird looking, but not completely disgusting. The Marabou cares not for such pleasantries, its own sac appears to be placed, designed and proportioned specifically to confuse and horrify. (Check it out, if you dare.)

All this, and there is the fact that it is 1.5 metres tall, about 5 feet. I would still tower over it, but I feel for those who would look at it eye-to-eye; I wouldn't want a head-to-head with a Marabou stork, not with that head. Or indeed that massive beak, or its 3 metre wing span which lets it fly through the air like some massive, nasty looking flying thing. Give it a crafty, manipulative intelligence and a taste for human flesh and we're talking real horror here.

Luckily, its not-quite-properly-bald head allows it to scavenge on carrion, much like vultures, while the powerful beak lets it eat insects, fish, frogs, eggs, assorted nestlings and hatchlings and adult flamingos. ADULT flamingos! :( Maybe it's just jealous? Oh, and whatever it is they find in rubbish dumps, in cities, right next to millions of human beings. They're also gregarious, they like to be with others of their own kind, probably because no-one else wants to be near them and despite they're size, they still nest in trees. Which is a bit horrifying. Still, it could be worse.

Mark my words, if this creature accidentally eats some poor guy's arm, Hitchcock's 'The Birds' is gonna look like a night out at the pictures. So to speak.


Anonymous said...

Nice blog you have here. Love those photo. Good job

Joseph JG said...

Thank you, kind words are always appreciated!