|Conservation status||Vulnerable (2011)|
The secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius) is a long-legged bird of prey inhabiting much of sub-Saharan Africa. The only living member of the family Sagittariidae, current scientific consensus places it within the Falconiformes, despite anatomical and superficial similarities shared with the South American cariamas.
The name is in reference to the sparse crest of feathers adorning the back of the head, after a passing resemblance to 18th century clerks who had goose-quill pens held behind their ears when not writing.
The secretary bird has a wingspan of 6-7 feet, and stands nearly 4 feet tall on crane-like legs. It is predominately gray, with black primaries and secondaries on the wings, black belly and thighs. The tail is long with black bars, with the two central tail feathers nearly twice as long as the others. The face is bare of feathers, and reddish in color.
Habitat and range
Secretary birds inhabit dry grasslands and sparsely-wooded savannahs, from sea level to 3,500 feet, in most of southern and eastern Africa, north to Somalia.