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The Maribu Stork (Marabou)

The Maribu Stork is actually spelled 'Marabou, but you searched 'Maribu', so excuse the writers privilege.


The Maribu stork, Leptoptilos crumeniferus, is a large wading bird in the stork family Ciconiidae. Maribu can weigh up to 7 kg and stand up to 1.5m tall. The Maribu has a wingspan of 2.5m when fully grown. The Maribu breeds in Africa south of the Sahara, living in both wet and dry areas, often near human habitation, especially waste tips, and even in Zimbabwe….Poor birds! Just kidding, Zim is actually a great place and Mogabe will be gone soon!.... The Maribu is sometimes called the "undertaker bird," due to its shape from behind: cloak-like wings and back, thin white legs, and sometimes, a large white mass of "hair."

Maribu storks are usually gregarious, but seeing solitary Maribu is not uncommon. The Maribu spends a lot of time resting, usually perched in a tree away from danger. The Maribu has an inflatable gular pouch which they use mainly to signal dominance during social interaction. When threatened, the Maribu spreads its wings in threat and approaches the threat. Maribu storks roost communally at sites which are used year after year.



The Maribu is a massive bird, large specimens are thought to reach a height of 150 cm (60 in), a weight of over 7 kg (20 lb.) and have a wingspan of at least 2.5m.. Unlike most storks, the Maribu flies with the neck retracted like a heron or darter.

The Maribu is unmistakable due to its size, bare head and neck, black back, and white under parts. Maribu a huge bill, a pink gular sack at its throat, a neck ruff, and black legs and wings. The sexes in Maribu are alike, but the young Maribu is browner and has a smaller bill. Maribu reach full maturity is not reached for up to four years.
Like most storks, the Maribu is gregarious and a colonial breeder. In the African dry season (when food is more readily available as the pools shrink) Maribu storks build a tree nest into which two or three eggs are laid.
The Maribu also resembles other storks in that it is not very vocal, but indulges in bill-rattling courtship displays. The throat sack is also used to make various noises at that time.



The Maribu Stork is a frequent scavenger, and the naked head and neck are adaptations to this, as it is with the white backed vulture with which the stork often feeds. In both cases, a feathered head would become rapidly clotted with blood and putrefying flesh from sticking its head deep into carcasses and the bare head is easier to keep clean.
The Maribu eats mainly carrion and scraps, but will also take fish, frogs, insects, eggs, small mammals and reptiles such as crocodile hatchlings and eggs. The Maribu occasionally eats other birds including quelea nestlings, pigeons, doves, pelican and cormorant chicks, and even flamingoes. Maribu storks are often seen in large numbers around carcasses, but will even catch rats and mice! Maribu storks have even been recorded eating crocodile eggs and hatchlings. Maribu are often seen near fires, foraging on the small animals, insects and snakes flushed out by the fire. Maribu storks need about 1kg of food per day.


Maribu storks are monogamous, colonial nesters with colonies of 10 - 30 pairs, but some Maribu colonies are made up of several hundred Maribu stork pairs. Maribu often live in mixed colonies together with herons, cormorants and ibis. When breeding, copulation lasts for about 15 seconds! The male and female Maribu build the nest which consists of a stick platform lines with leaves and grass. Maribu storks lay 1 - 4 eggs laid over 1 - 3 days. Maribu eggs are chalky white and weigh an average of 138 grams. Egg incubation takes 29 - 31 days. At 65 days, young Maribu storks begin to hover above the nest and their first flight happens between 95 and 115 days of age. Baby Maribu are dependent upon their parents for at least 130 days. Only 1 egg out of 3 produced a fledgling Maribu and less than 25% of Maribu hatchlings survive to maturity, which works out to a survival rate of 1 Maribu baby from 12 eggs.