Scopus umbretta, more commonly known as the Hamerkop and less commonly as the Hammerhead Stork, is the sole representative of its family Scopidae and endemic to Africa.
They have an ancient appearance, looking almost like a snap shot into their forty five million year old ancestry. They also create the largest domed nest constructed by a pair of birds which may weigh as much as fifty kilograms constructed from as many as eight thousand items.

I often take the time to spend and watch one of these birds whenever the opportunity presents itself as they are always up to something, be it kicking around the muck at the sides of a pan or darting off at the slightest glimpse of any ripple, with their crest raised in excitement. These birds feed mainly on fish, frogs and have seen them beating the hell out of a toad before gulping it down.
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But lately I have seen them sitting on waterÖ
Well that is what it looked like at first glance.
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Fish naturally play a huge role in their diet and have witnessed them going to extreme lengths to get their bill on one. Years ago there was one dam with an enormous amount of fry in its waters, hunting them from the shore was a frustrating and often fruitless exercise, but this did not stop many birds from trying.
It was a great place to spend time in the mornings watching the various specie of birds hunting this difficult to catch bounty.
There was a hamerkop there most mornings that had a damaged right leg, so chasing on the shoreline technique was out for him. This bird soon learnt that by flying, almost at stalling speed over the water it was able to more often than not snatch an unsuspecting fish from the surface. In the weeks that followed there were grey herons, yellow billed storks, great white egrets, green-backed herons and even one or two marabouís trying the technique. Which worked for some but not for others?
Over the last couple of weeks out on drives I have watched hamerkopís using hippo heads and backs as fishing points. They seem to make the perfect object to fish from
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Like most fishermen they too seem to believe that the big ones are always out in the middle somewhere and this fishing from the shoreline doesnít cut it anymore.
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I havenít seen them catch anything this way yet, but they obviously are having some success and only lift off at the last second, to land on the next available head or back which ever appears first.
Luckily for them the hippo doesnít seem to mind their being used as a fishing post.
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