Among animals, birds are renowned for being highly skilled builders, able to construct complex nests made of sticks, grass, mud or other materials. What makes this really amazing is that they do it with nothing but their beak and feet. They do not have the luxury of hands like we do. Birds’ nests come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from simple flat platforms to complex chambers with multiple tunnels, entrances and exits.
Today we will take a look at one of the most impressive builders of the bird world. It is reputed to build the largest nest of all African birds. This is non other than the Hamerkop (Scopus umbretta).
A large Hamerkop nest can be nearly 2 meters wide and is so strong that a man can stand on it. Not bad for a bird that weighs half a kg.
Hamerkops are important in ecosystems as their nests are used by several other animals including genets, rodents, snakes and falcons. In some cases this involves the Hamerkops being forced out but most times it is the abandoned/unused nests that get occupied. Sometimes different species might even nest in different corners of the nest while the Hamerkops continue to use the nest. The huge nest size makes this possible.
Hamerkops are common throughout Kenya wherever there is a water body, stream or swamp where they can find frogs, fish and other aquatic prey to eat.
Next time you go birding, make sure to submit your bird records to the Kenya Bird Map project to help map the current distribution of Hamerkops and other birds throughout Kenya.
If you enjoyed this episode of Ndege Wetu, make sure you don’t miss Part 9 on Thursday next week.
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