Family

CHAPTER

phylum class subclass order monotypic order suborder ▲ family

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Shoebills are large, gray wading birds, birds that search for food in shallow water, that stand about 4.5 feet (1.4 meters) tall. They are named for their enormous bills that look like wooden shoes. Some people call them whale-heads because their heads are shaped like the body of a blue whale. In any case, their huge hooked bills make them easy to recognize. Although shoebills have similarities to herons and storks, they are in a family all by themselves. Scientific tests show that they may be more closely related to pelicans than storks and herons.

Shoebills have gray patches on their yellowish bills. Some people can tell individual shoebills apart by the bill markings. Shoebills' legs and toes are long, and they have unusually large, front-facing eyes with yellow irises. On the back of their heads, they have a small crest that rises when they are frightened or excited. shoebills are about 4 feet (1.2 meters) in length from the tip of their bills to the end of their tails, and their wingspan is 8.5 feet (2.6 meters). Their bills are 7.5 inches (19.1 centimeters) in length and their toes are between 6.6 and 7.3 inches (16.8 and 18.5 centimeters) long. Male shoebills are a little larger than the females.

GEOGRAPHIC RANGE

Shoebills live in central Africa. Most of them are in southern Sudan and northern Uganda. Some are also found in Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, and Rwanda.

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