secretary bird

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secretary bird,

common name for a long-legged African bird, Sagittarius serpentarius, related to the hawkhawk,
name generally applied to the smaller members of the Accipitridae, a heterogeneous family of diurnal birds of prey, such as the eagle, the kite, and the Old World vulture.
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 and about 4 ft (122 cm) tall. Its crest of black feathers suggested the quill pens behind the ear of a 19th-century male secretary. The bird hunts on foot, zigzagging toward its prey and flapping its wings, and is valued as a destroyer of snakes and other reptiles. Secretary birds are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Accipitriformes, family Sagittariidae.

Secretary Bird


(Sagittarius serpentarius), a bird of prey of the family Sagittariidae. Up to 1 m tall, the secretary bird resembles a crane. The legs are long and powerful, and the talons are short. The plumage is gray and black. The feathers on the head are reminiscent of goose quills stuck behind the ear of a clerk—whence the bird’s name.

The secretary bird is found in steppe areas in sub-Saharan Africa. The nests are in trees or bushes at 2–6 m or higher; each clutch contains two or, less frequently, three eggs. The secretary bird feeds on locusts, termites, reptiles, birds, and rodents; it hunts on the ground. It kills its prey, for example, poisonous snakes, by striking it with its feet; it uses its wings to protect itself from bites. It is under legal protection everywhere. It sometimes attacks useful birds, such as partridges.

secretary bird

a large African long-legged diurnal bird of prey, Sagittarius serpentarius, having a crest and tail of long feathers and feeding chiefly on snakes: family Sagittariidae, order Falconiformes (hawks, falcons, etc.)