“The 4-foot-tall birds called secretary birds are so beautiful and magnificent”

We might be having a bad day, but if a beautiful bird appears, suddenly we all feel a little lighter. According to birdwatchers and scientists, there are between 9,000 and 10,000 bird species. One way to identify them is by their physical appearance; when you look closely, it becomes obvious that birds come in many shapes and colors, and some are absolutely stunning.

There are many birds with strange names and nicknames, and most of them are not named for what their silly names represent. Today’s story is about 4-foot-tall birds called secretary birds that have long, beautiful, luxurious eyelashes. It somewhat resembles secretaries in corporate offices if we put it in a red dress. And having that kind of eyelashes, human women go to great lengths to achieve it. Some people said it dates even prior to this and was first described and named in 1769. Dutch settlers in Africa called the bird “Sagitarius,” but due to their lack of knowledge and strong accent, local farmers called them “Secretarius.” And later, it transformed into secretary.

What are secretary birds? These raptors of the savannas, grasslands, and bushlands of sub-Saharan Africa stand almost four feet tall, and standing is often how you’ll find them, as they mainly move on foot. They fly only when necessary, such as to reach their nest in trees and for courtship displays.

The secretary bird is distinguished by its long legs and a spectacular black crest of feathers on the back of its head. Its body is covered in whitish-gray feathers, with two long tail feathers tipped in black. Its bare face is usually yellow, orange, or red. The upper half of its long legs has black feathers, so it looks like it’s wearing cyclist shorts. The lower half is covered in scales and has barely visible feathers.

While it’s not certain where the name “secretary bird” comes from, one explanation is that they are named after 19th-century secretaries or lawyers’ clerks. Secretaries typically wore gray coats and knee-length black pants, and they would tuck bird feathers behind their ears, similar in color to the bird and the feather on its head. Another theory is that “secretary bird” is an English corruption of saqr et-tair, which roughly means “hunter bird” in Arabic, a phrase a traveler claims to have heard Arabic speakers in Sudan calling it. That explanation, however, has been doubted by some experts.

Hunting and diet: Secretary birds and caracaras are the only two raptors that hunt on the ground rather than from the air. Secretary birds’ diets consist of small rodents, amphibians, and reptiles. Working in small groups or with a mate, secretary birds hunt from dawn until dusk, resting only during the peak heat of the afternoon. They sometimes capture prey by striking them with their short, hooked beaks, but the more famous secretary birds use their large feet and sharp claws to stomp them to death.

Snakes are a favorite food, and indeed, the bird’s scientific name, Sagittarius serpentarius, means “snake archer.” If a snake tries to strike at a secretary bird, it usually ends up with its mouth full of feathers from the bird’s nearly two-meter wingspan, which it uses as a distraction. The scales on the bottom of their legs provide additional protection against snake bites.

Human encroachment on the secretary birds’ natural habitat has led to the species being classified as vulnerable to extinction. Parts of their grassland habitat have been burned and cleared for livestock. Those open areas leave little protection for prey animals, making it difficult for secretary birds to find food. Some secretary birds can manage in human-created open areas by seeking out small animals that didn’t escape fires or other predators.

It is known that human presence, mainly shepherds, interferes with secretary birds’ reproduction. Secretary birds can be found in various protected areas throughout their wide range, but scientists say better monitoring is needed to track their numbers and quantify their decline in some areas.

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