File:Marabou Stork, Leptoptilos crumeniferus, at the aptly named Marabou Pan, Savuti, Chobe National Park, Botswana (32633651402).jpg
Derek Keats from Johannesburg, South Africa, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Marabou Storks (Leptoptilos crumeniferus) often makes their way onto lists of the ugliest animals on the planet. Their nearly bald heads and mottled black and red complexion certainly don’t help with that perception. The Marabou Stork is  sometimes referred to as “the undertaker bird” because of its black, cloak-like wings, skinny white legs, and what appears to be a white tuft of hair. 


But don’t judge this book by its cover! Marabou storks are scavengers who help keep the environment clean of pests and diseases by eating dead animal carcasses. If left alone, decaying carcasses can become hosts for toxic bacteria which can spread and infect animals, including livestock and humans! Marabou storks and other scavengers like vultures have powerful stomach acid to kill harmful substances and recycle valuable nutrients back into the ecosystem. Marabou storks are so undiscriminating with their diet that they will eat what vultures discard! The bald head of Marabou storks is actually an adaptation to the scavenger lifestyle Where feathered heads would easily get covered in blood and decaying animal matter when digging through carcasses, bare heads are much easier to keep clean. So next time you find yourself judging the Marabou Stork, remember all the good they do for the ecosystem!



Bernard Gagnon, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Marabou Storks are also one of the largest birds in the world, standing up to 5ft tall, weighing around 20lbs, and with wingspans of over 10ft! Their range covers most of sub-saharan Africa, as they are quite adaptable to both wet and dry environments. Today, they can often be found hanging out in landfills, cleaning up after human messes! Watch out though, individuals in man-made environments are known to be aggressive when denied food. While they don’t seem to be picky about the quality of their food, they have been observed washing food in water to remove dirt.


File:Marabou stork in Chobe National Park 01.jpg
Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons