The problems with Maribou Storks…

Its hard enough to focus on studying Swahili when its 80+ degrees outside. But even harder when you’re sharing space with an ugly 60″ tall bird, weighing around 20lbs thats having trouble getting airborne.

I was in our shared garden trying to focus on the object concord and its use in Kiswahili when the tree next to me seemed to somewhat exploded.

Small branches and leaves started to rain down onto my homework and looking up there was a rather large and not particularly attractive bird swaying somewhat unsteadily in the wind. We didn’t know it was a Maribou Stork at the time and we’re puzzling over what this hefty bird was doing.

All the commotion attracted our local ‘Go-Away’ birds (so called because their calls which are loud and numerous sound “g’way” (*) or a bleating sheep, take your pick) which then made the Maribou Stork nervous. However it was temporarily confounded by the problem that its wings kept getting tangled up in the tree; these storks often have wingspans over 10ft.

We watched it try and solve this problem for a long time without a great deal of success. First it would stretch out its wings, try and flap, destroy more of the tree, withdraw wings, move further along spindly branch, pause to think about it and then try again.

It eventually ‘solved’ the problem by falling off its current perch and somehow grabbing hold of a lower branch. It was not the most graceful of techniques but it did solve a lot of its problems. The noise scared off the annoying Go-Away birds, the act of falling cleared out a lot of smaller irritating branches and leaves and it ended up in a much sparser part of the tree.

From its new perch, it could almost stretch out its wings and with another brief and ungainly dismount, it got airborne just enough to clear the house and away it laboured, off over Kisumu Town.

As the our guide book also says a Maribou Stork is “.. huge and unmistakable” (*) and really its true. Once you’ve seen one, you probably won’t forget especially as they like to “..consort with vultures at carcasses”, which sounds charming.

(*) Helm Field Guide to the Birds of East Africa & Northern Tanzania


  1. What a great photo and wonderful experience within your very own compound! The bird must have been there quiet a while for you to grab the camera and capture it. Hope you found the right kswahili words to describe it to you professor.

  2. Sadly I didn’t take this photo as our stork remained quite stubbornly stuck up a tree.

    I borrowed this off the internet. Though now I can’t quite seem to find the site I ‘borrowed’ it from so I can’t give the photographer credit for it.