Super birds of the Savannah

Super birds of the Savannah

FOSSILS records indicate that modern birds are the last remnants of dinosaurs; their ancestors evolved from a primitive birdlike, very big reptile about 100 million years ago.

With reference from Deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA tests, different researches on genetic materials of different species show that a dramatic diversification of this zoological class took place more than 65 million years ago.

 History show that different species of birds evolved after a mass extinction event that killed most of plants and animals on Earth from about 75 to 65 million years ago.

To cope with a fast changing environment, ancestors of modern birds were forced to develop different strategies which helped them to adapt new topography with strange or harsh weather condition.

An animal that failed to develop new adaptation strategies was forced into extinction just like terror bird which is the largest bird to ever live but got itself into troubles which wiped the whole population on earth about 2.5 million years ago.

The legendary Marabou stock came into the Savannah about 1.9 million years ago as the volcanic activity pushed the east African valley to Mozambique about 1.2 million years ago.

Marabou stock is found in great number in different national parks, people fear this large bird because of their unattractive shape which the French called Marabou meaning the ugly one.

The Marabou Stock leads a scavenging life and sometime depends on food from vultures who use their hocked sharp bill to cut and open skin on carcasses.

This is witnessed when the large bird cannot cut meat with its long straight beak and avoid fighting most of the time they will stand aside until the time when the other bird is satisfied then they will take their portion on the dead body.

Marabou stock have pouch at the lower end of their throat which is not used to store anything else but air.

This is a gular sac which is connected with the oral cavity where its feed with air when inflated to show superiority and during mating seasons male uses a pink inflated ball to attract a female.

Both sexes have the gular sac used as thermo regulator which controls the level of temperature in the body according to requirements in a particular season  by cooling or heating the blood which flows into the brain and other important parts of the body.

The Marabou stock as large and powerful bird eats mainly carrion, scraps and farces but will opportunistically eat almost any animal matter it can swallow.

It occasionally eats other birds including quelea nestlings, pigeons, doves, pelican chicks of cormorant and flamingos.

During the breeding season, adults scale back on carrion and take mostly small, live prey since nestlings need this kind of food to survive.

Common prey at this time may consist of fish, frogs, insects, eggs, small mammals and reptiles such as crocodile hatchlings and eggs.    

People on the shores of lake Ikimba don’t only fear this large bird but also attach it with the emerging of the water body in the area.

People in Ikimba believe that once upon a time there was a lazy man who got married to a young and beautiful girl.

With that attitude, the man could not feed his wife so depended on his mother who worked very hard for her family.

Fish are very important for people who live around lakes in Bukoba, according to customs and culture of Haya a bride is called Mgole and is forbidden to work or going outside the house for not less than 30 days depending on supplies from the family of her husband.

To make things happening, the old mother was forced to make magical tricks to feed hungry mouths in her house.

So set aside one room in the house for the sorcerous things, time after time the bride saw her mother inlaw going into the rooms then come out while looking anxiously with a fresh fish in her hand.

In the middle of that drama, the mother would request the bride not to open the door or going into the room.

The young woman kept asking herself what was inside the room, where the fresh fish were coming from and why was she not allowed into the room but not her husband or the mother in law reveled the secret inside the room.

Days passed as the old woman was doing the same thing and the common food would be prepared while eating the old mama would still insist the restrictions of the room.

Then one day things changed when the daughter inlaw decided break the law and walked into the room.

The bride looked around the sacred room and saw it had nothing special but suddenly she realized that her feet was in a small pool of water with its level increasing very fast.

Quickly lady was on her feet running to the farm while calling the old woman in loud voice who heard the cry and came with a wood to control water flowing out from the house.

Fearing that the water would kill people of the whole village the old woman started to dig river canal to direct the water into a safe area while singing in local language Kahiga Ka ikimba ita ahkahro, osige akandi.

With all her efforts she could not stop the water from coming out or getting the water far from the area until she got tired and could not do anything more.

The pool grew bigger as the water from the house kept on coming and engulfed her as the whole body was swallowed by water leaving the wood part of the hoe submerged.

In area such as Mnazi, Kabaruka, Kanazi, Rwagati and Mikoni villagers believe that the old woman evolved into the body of Marabou stock.

Also they believe the bird is still walking on the shores of lake Ikimba with a basket hanging on her neck which she uses to store food for lady who is still in a hiding.

With its ugly shape the Marabou Stock plays a very important role around water bodies by removing dead bodies of other creatures which may pollute the lake, river and stream.

On the other side of the world, from hundreds of years, the world of English speakers has been through an endless argument about the name secretary bird came from.

Among zoologist and common people, some historians believe that the name was driven from the time when journalism was growing up, at that time quill like feathers were used to write.

The secretary birds are known of being decorated by long quill like feathers sticking out behind their heads and create an elegant outlook among birds of the savannah.

From their side journalists describe the bird as a beautiful avian which is endowed with long stunning legs which make the bird to look like a gorgeous girl cat walking in a beauty parade.

Zoologists say the secretary bird is a very large bird with an eagle like head with hooked bill which differentiate a body on crane like legs and create an elegantly looking bird standing about 1.3 meter tall in the savannah of Africa.

The secretary bird has long legs which play important role to enable natural forces to control population of some insects, birds, reptiles and small mammals which has the ability of multiplying in huge number after very short period of time.

Zoologists say it is very interesting that these birds have developed a unique taste on flesh from some birds, lizards, insects and dangerous snakes.

These include cobra which are feared by other animals in the whole of savannah because of their great ability to defend themselves and swift attacks against their enemies.

One may wonder about this unique taste on flesh from venomous snakes but scientists say being a member of raptors, the secretary bird was uniquely design and created by nature to play the role of controlling the number of dangerous species in the savannah.

The secretary bird is a raptor that hunts and feed on other small and medium sized body in the savannah, the bird is very successful in most of its hunting activities because of powerful eyes which is capable to locate a small snake crawling under heavy blanket of grasses in the savannah.

With keen eyesight, just like other bird of prey the secretary bird has special mechanism that is modified to meet their way of life.

Their eyes are equipped with powerful receptor cells which work effectively with the placement of eyes to create unique binocular which enable accuracy in judgment of position and distance of the intended prey.

Zoologists say a pairs of secretary birds keep track of what is happening in their territory which can stretch between 32 to 50 square kilometers in size.

To get a good supply of food in Seregeti, Tarangire or Ruaha national parks these birds are known to cover about more than 32 kilometers in a day turning the savannah up and down while hunting.

Unlike other dwellers of the savannah which are afraid of the Sun, secretary birds may search for their food throughout the day but the temperature grow very harsh they always retreat under the shade of a tree and return to their roost just before sunset.

The size of their heads play an important in reducing the area which is affected by rays meanwhile the long quills protruding backward around the head may help to release temperature from the head. 

Zoologists say some secretary birds in wild have developed a unique taste on flesh from venomous snakes and they prefer to hunt cobra while without their knowledge they create conducive situation for others to thrive in an area which could be dominated by these snakes which has ability of multiplying their numbers within short period of time.

Unlike big mammals such cheetah, leopard, lion, buffalo and elephant, a single female cobra is capable of laying 1 to 150 eggs at a time.

What would happen in Serengeti if the secretary bird was absent is not known, but the answer for this question can be found in forest where these raptors do not dwell.

By developing taste on the flesh of venoms snakes the secretary bird is playing its role in the long and complex mechanism whereby nature control the number of one specie for advantages of coexist in one ecosystem.

This is self organized arrangement whereby the number of predators such as lion, leopard and cheetah is checked down to allow antelopes to thrive and become reliable source of food f    or predators.

Compared to snakes, the rate of multiplying among secretary birds is very little whereby one to three eggs are incubated for 45 days.

To control the number of these raptors when all three eggs are hatched nature takes out the weakest chick when the two turn against their fellow and kill it when their mother is late from hunting activities in the wild.

In most species of snakes the relation between a female and its offspring ends just after the eggs are laid, on their side a female secretary bird will take care for its chicks for about 45 days.

Scientists believe the bird evolved more than 160 million years ago when their ancestors diverged from reptiles in a long process which lasted until about 100 million years ago.

Fossil records show that the real ancestors of modern secretary birds evolved about 44 million years ago.

From that time these birds have developed different strategies to hunt, kill and eat snakes like Mozambique spitting cobra which has ability of laying 10 to 22 eggs at one time and hutched after 90 days.

Different studies show without agents of nature such as a secretary bird control the number of snakes.

One cobra is capable of producing about 640 offspring in her entire life which may last for about 40 years.

The situation could be unbearable if half of these are able reproduce pushing their population to 204,800 which could not stay in one ecosystem so they would be forced to invade village, township and cities such as Mwanza and Dar es Salaam.

You might be bright, but a brighter fellow exists

DEAR nephew Milambo Greetings from this confused ...

Author: Reginald Stanislaus Matillya

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