Photo by Hans Hillewaert
SHOEBILL (Balaeniceps rex)
Photographed at Pairi Daiza, Brugelette, Belgium
Birds (Aves), a subgroup of reptiles, are the last living examples of dinosaurs, and they are the closet living relatives of crocodilians. Birds rank as the class of tetrapods with the most livings species, at just over 10,000 species...interesting, considering the dinosaurs are all gone. The Shoebill (native to central Africa) has always caught my eye and personally I feel it has a somewhat dinosaur look about it. Its behaviour is somewhat rapacious, like certain dinosaurs, in its hunting and eating habits. It eats many kinds of fish, including catfish and lungfish (up to a metre long), snakes, frogs, rodents, waterfowl, lizards and baby crocodiles. They even eat their siblings and it is only the oldest chick that reaches maturity. Like many bird species, their numbers are dwindling. Shoebills are down to between 5,000 and 8,000 birds in the wild and are listed as 'Vulnerable'.
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