secretary bird


secretary bird
a large, long-legged, raptorial bird, Sagittarius serpentarius, of Africa, that feeds on reptiles.
[1790-1800; < F secrétaire, perh. by folk etym. < Sudanese Ar sagr al-ter, equiv. to sagr hawk + al the + ter birds (collective)]

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African raptor (Sagittarius serpentarius, family Sagittaridae), the only living bird of prey that hunts on foot.

It has long scaly legs, a light-gray body that is 4 ft (1.2 m) long, and a 7-ft (2.1-m) wingspread. It weighs about 8 lbs (3.5 kg). Twenty black crest feathers make it appear to be carrying quill pens behind its ears. Secretary birds kill snakes (their main prey) by stamping on them, flailing them against the ground, or dropping them from aloft. They make their large stick-built nests in thorn trees. Both parents feed the offspring by regurgitation. Secretary birds are protected in most African nations.

Secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius)

© Stephen J. Krasemann/Peter Arnold, Inc.

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bird
 bird of prey (family Sagittaridae) of the dry uplands of Africa, the only living bird of prey of terrestrial habits. It is a long-legged bird, with a slender but powerful body 1.2 m (3.9 feet) long and a 2.1-metre (6.9-foot) wingspread. Twenty black crest feathers make it appear to be carrying quill pens behind its ears, as secretaries once did. It has a light gray body, black thighs and flight feathers, and white wing linings. Its head and beak resemble those of the caracara. Its tail has a pair of long central streamers. Its legs have thick scales to protect the bird from snakebite.

      Snakes are the main food of secretary birds, a diet supplemented by lizards, grasshoppers, mice, and birds' eggs. Secretary birds hunt on foot, in pairs or small groups that keep in contact by hooting. They kill snakes by stamping or flailing them against the ground, sometimes dropping them from aloft.

      Secretary birds are protected in most African nations and are sometimes tamed around farms as snake-catchers, but they have nevertheless become uncommon. The nest is large, usually built of sticks in a thorn tree. The offspring, usually two, hatch in seven weeks and are fed by both parents by regurgitation.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Secretary bird — Secretary Sec re*ta*ry, n.; pl. {Secretaries}. [F. secr[ e]taire (cf. Pr. secretari, Sp. & Pg. secretario, It. secretario, segretario) LL. secretarius, originally, a confidant, one intrusted with secrets, from L. secretum a secret. See {Secret},… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • secretary bird — ► NOUN ▪ a slender long legged African bird of prey that feeds on snakes, having a crest likened to a quill pen stuck behind the ear …   English terms dictionary

  • secretary bird — n. [from the penlike feathers of its crest] a large, black and grayish blue African bird of prey (Sagittarius serpentarius), the only species in its family (Sagittariidae), with a long neck, long legs, and tufts of penlike feathers sticking out… …   English World dictionary

  • Secretary Bird — Taxobox name = Secretary Bird status = LC | status system = IUCN3.1 status ref =IUCN2006|assessors=BirdLife International|year=2004|id=49471|title=Sagittarius serpentarius|downloaded=8 May 2006 (database entry includes justification for least… …   Wikipedia

  • secretary bird — noun large long legged African bird of prey that feeds on reptiles • Syn: ↑Sagittarius serpentarius • Hypernyms: ↑bird of prey, ↑raptor, ↑raptorial bird • Member Holonyms: ↑Sagittarius, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • secretary bird — sec′retary bird n. orn a large, long legged bird of prey, Sagittarius serpentarius, of Africa, that feeds on reptiles • Etymology: 1790–1800; < F secrétaire, perh. by folk etym. < Sudanese Ar ṣagr al ṭēr …   From formal English to slang

  • secretary bird — noun Etymology: probably from the resemblance of its crest to a bunch of quill pens stuck behind the ear Date: 1824 a large long legged bird of prey (Sagittarius serpentarius of the family Sagittariidae) of sub Saharan Africa that feeds largely… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • secretary bird — noun /ˈsɛkɹə,tɛɹɪ bɜːd/lang= A large bird of prey, Sagittarius serpentarius, native to Africa with very long legs, so named because of its crest of long feathers resembling quill pens stuck behind the ears of an office clerk. It preys on reptiles …   Wiktionary

  • secretary bird — n. large African bird of prey with long legs that eats mainly reptiles …   English contemporary dictionary

  • secretary bird — noun a slender long legged African bird of prey that feeds on snakes, having a crest likened to a quill pen stuck behind the ear. [Sagittarius serpentarius.] …   English new terms dictionary


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