NC Zoo Seeks Help Spotting Two African Secretary Birds

Close-up portrait of a secretary bird – Sagittarius serpentarius

URGENT! – ASHEBORO, N.C., May 28, 2017

 On May 26, two Secretary Birds left their behind-the-scenes habitat through an egress that was not tightly secured, and then blown open by gusty winds that topped 30 mph.

Zoo officials stressed that Secretary Birds are not a danger to the general public, pets or farm animals. Secretary Birds will avoid people and feed on snakes and frogs.

flying secretary bird

The zoo is asking the public’s help in locating the two fully-flighted birds, and has set up a Hotline to call with sightings: 336.879.7610.

The zoo has had a large team searching the area, and spotted the birds several times over the past few days.

Portrait of a pretty Secretary Bird of prey from Africa

Secretary Birds, long-legged birds native to Africa, grow to an average of four- to five-feet-tall. Their bodies are light gray in color – a stark contrast to their long, dark tail feathers. Their faces are bare, with red/orange skin. In addition to their long legs, their most notable feature is a series of black, quill-like crest of feathers on the back of their heads that fan out when they encounter prey. While they can fly, they do not hunt for their food in flight. They hunt on foot and feed on a diet of snakes (both venomous and non-venomous), rodents, amphibians and large insects.

A closeup of the head of a secretarybird (side view)

If the birds are spotted, zoo officials ask the public not to approach the birds but to call the Hotline and report pertinent details.

Fun Fact about Secretary Birds: The secretary bird’s English name was once thought to come from the 1800s, when Europeans first spotted these birds. Back then, male secretaries wore gray tailcoats and dark knee-length pants. They also used goose-quill pens that they carried behind their ears. This long-legged bird shares many of these same physical features: long, dark quills at the back of the head; long, gray wing and tail feathers that resemble a tailcoat; and black feathers that go midway down the legs like short pants. It’s fun to imagine how the two “secretaries” compare!


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