Saddle-billed Stork Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis Scientific name definitions

Jonah Gula
Version: 2.0 — Published June 25, 2021

Diet and Foraging

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This stork usually feeds on aquatic prey such as fish , mollusks, frogs , and crustaceans, but it is also known to eat reptiles, small mammals, young birds, and insects. Foraging can occur singly or in groups depending on prey availability.


Main Foods Taken

It primarily feeds on aquatic animals.

Microhabitat for Foraging

No information known.

Food Capture and Consumption

Foraging occurs singly, in pairs, or in groups, depending on how concentrated prey are, yet it is never cooperative. In Chad's Zakouma National Park, 85 were observed foraging among thousands of other waterbirds at one wetland in the dry season (34). Typical foraging is tactile and involves moving slowly through the water while probing substrate, vegetation, and the water column. When prey is felt with the bill it snaps shut, is raised from the water, and the prey item is tossed backward into the esophagus (10). While probing, it may also use its feet to stir up prey (JG, personal observation) and there is some indication it may impale fish with either mandible (77). Feeding on land involves a visual search while walking. It sometimes chases prey over a short distance in the water and on land (JG, personal observation). When aquatic prey such as large catfish or lungfish are captured, they are often taken to the shore where pectoral fins may be clipped off before the fish is swallowed head first (78). Large fish and snakes may be stabbed to death before consumption and then washed (79, 2, 80).


Major Food Items

Its principle prey are fish , especially lungfish (Protopterus spp.) and catfish (Clarias spp.) ranging from 15–30 cm in length and weighing as much as 1.3 kg (10, 4). Smaller fish are more commonly captured, however (JG). Other prey includes water beetles (1), frogs (81), snails (JG), small mammals (2), snakes (81), bird chicks (82), and insects such as grasshoppers (JG) and termites (83). It has also been observed to eat fish regurgitated by cormorants (80).

Notable examples of predation include: ​capturing, drowning, and swallowing a Red-billed Duck (Anas erythrorhyncha; 84); consuming chicks from a Red-billed Quelea (Quelea quelea) nesting colony (82); capturing but not successfully killing a slender mongoose (Galerella sanguinea); and capturing, drowning, and swallowing a spitting cobra (Naja mossambica; P. Firus, personal communication).

Quantitative Analysis

No information.

Food Selection and Storage

No information.

Nutrition and Energetics

No information.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

Similar to other stork species, it uses urohidrosis to regulate the core body temperature at high environmental temperatures (10). Kahl (85) experimentally demonstrated this process in the Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) in which excreting on the legs cooled blood flowing to the core and lowered body temperature several degrees. Given that the Saddle-billed Stork exhibits this behavior, too, it presumably has a similar effect. Adult storks are also known to pour water over nestlings, which also presumably has a cooling effect (10).

Drinking, Pellet-Casting, and Defecation

It drinks frequently, scooping water into its lower mandible and jerking its head forward to swallow (4).

Recommended Citation

Gula, J. (2021). Saddle-billed Stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman and B. K. Keeney, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.sabsto1.02