(Balaeniceps rex)




Facts about this animal

The Shoebill is a very large, grey, stork-like bird with a unique huge, swollen bill, tipped with a strong hooked nail. An adult male is about 120 cm in length, the females are slightly smaller but otherwise alike.

The plumage is grey to grey-blue on the head (crown ashy) and generally ashy grey and slightly glossy greenish on the back. The belly and under tail coverts are nearly white. The legs are blackish.

The shoebill is a very solitary bird that also does not like disturbance by humans. It lives in very extensive marshes of Papyrus and Miscarthidium where it hunts for fish. The nest is built of fallen reeds and papyrus, either floating or resting on a low island.

Did you know?
that shoebill storks are often compared to statues as they stand perfectly still for long periods in marshes, waiting for a meal to surface in the water? Shoebills are opportunistic feeders eating frogs, small crocodiles, and especially lungfish and other mud puddle fish.


Class AVES
Name (Scientific) Balaeniceps rex
Name (English) Shoebill
Name (French) Bec-en-sabot
Name (German) Schuhschnabel
Name (Spanish) Picozapato
Local names Afrikaans: Skoenbekooievaar
CITES Status Appendix II
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Fritz Geller-Grimm



Range Africa, from southern Sudan and Ethiopia to southern Zaire, northern Zambia and Malawi. Possibly Botswana, Chad.
Habitat In large swamps
Wild population Approx. 5'000-8'000
Zoo population 26 reported to ISIS (2008)

In the Zoo



How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 17 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Tom Tarrant

Why do zoos keep this animal

Shoebill storks are only rarely kept by zoos, and if so, primarily for educational puposes because of their unique taxonomic position and morphology, and as an ambassador species for wetland conservation. Occasionally, illegally traded specimens may be entrusted to a zoo after confiscation by CITES Authorities. finally, there is also a scientific interest, as this elusive species is very difficult to study in the wild.

Zoos tried to reproduce shoebill storks without success since the discovery of the species in 1850. Finally, the breeding efforts of Parc Paradisio in Belgium were crowned with success when a healthy chick – weighing 116 grams - hatched on Saturday, 19.07.2008, after 42 days of incubation. The incubation period was thus clearly longer than the "about 30 days" usually referred to in scientific and popular zoological literature. This demonstrates the importance of zoos for the collection of scientific data on the biology of animals. Further data to be collected at Parc Paradisio will not only lighten up many still unanswered questions about the biology of this bird but also help protect and save this unique species living in the vanishing swamps of East and Central Africa.