Ugly stork seeks feathered friend

The marabou stork / Photo: Marek R. Swadzba [shutterstock]

The marabou stork / Photo: Marek R. Swadzba [shutterstock] - Credit: Archant

A giant stork, whose species is believed to have the largest wingspan in the world, is looking for a mate after the loss of its long-term female partner.

The marabou stork in Birdland

The marabou stork in Birdland - Credit: Archant

The massive male marabou stork lives at Birdland in Bourton-on-the-Water.

Sadly he recently lost his 17-year-old female partner, and now keepers are keen to find him a new girlfriend.

Also known as the ‘undertaker bird’ due to its slow walk, cloak-like wings, thin white legs and mass of white hair-like feathers, the marabou stork come from sub-Saharan Africa.

Marabou storks feed mainly on carrion in the wild but can eat adult flamingos, as well as fish and insects. Birdland’s male has even been seen catching large trout from the river which runs through its aviary.

“They’re certainly not the most attractive of birds; they mostly eat rotting meat and they do have the rather unfortunate habit of urinating down their own legs to keep themselves cool,” said Alistair Keen, Head Keeper.

“However I’m sure none of this would put off another marabou and we’re hoping to find him a suitable suitor soon,” he added.

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A wingspan of three metres, or close to 12 feet, has been recorded, making the marabou stork a rival in size to the Andean condor and there are reports of birds measuring in excess of four metres – although this has not been independently verified.

Increasingly, marabous have become dependent on human waste and hundreds of the huge birds can be found around African dumps or waiting for a hand out in urban areas.

Marabous eating human refuse have been seen to devour virtually anything that they can swallow, including shoes and pieces of metal.

The stork isn’t entirely without company, however. With its combination of woodland, riverside and gardens, Birdland features more than 500 birds, ranging from England’s only colony of king penguins to colourful parrots and hornbills in a mix of free-flying and aviary displays.

Birdland is located on Rissington Road, Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucester, GL54 2BN

Admission: £8.95 Adults / £5.95 Child (3-15) / Senior £7.95/ Family £28.00 (2+2)

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