Marabou Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything


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The marabou is a large African bird, a member of the stork family, also called 'Marabou Stork'. Most people consider it ugly; but ugliness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Its habits are closer to those of vultures than to those of many other storks. It's a carrion1 eater and scavenger, cruising high to locate carcasses and attending garbage dumps, for which it's despised by many. Nevertheless, the marabou's task is very important in the cycle of life.

The marabou stands about 4 feet tall; it has the bald neck and head usually associated with large carrion eaters; but, instead of a hooked bill, it carries a very large, straight bill, which can be 9.5 inches long. The marabou's characteristic posture is standing up straight with its bill straight down in front of it.

The marabou is unable to tear off pieces from a carcass with its peculiar bill; but it steals chunks of meat from vultures, chasing them off. They have even been known to steal a fish right out of the jaws of a crocodile or alligator. It's quite capable of catching its own fish, rats, or flamingos with the large, powerful beak.

Another interesting titbit about the marabou is that it often defecates on its legs to help regulate temperature. This makes the legs look white.

1Carrion describes the decaying flesh of dead animals.

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