An edgy visitor – a hammerkop

Recently I have noticed a hammerkop land at our pool on quite a few occasions.  It always lands in exactly the same spot and then flies off seconds later. It seems just to land and then take off again. I’m not sure if it flies off when it sees me or if it routinely just lands for a second or two anyway.  I will need to ask Fred what happens when we are not there.  They are such beautiful creatures.  It is a wading bird but there is really no place for it to wade at our pool.

The HAMMERKOP, or HAMMERHEAD (Scopus umbretta), an African bird, which has been regarded as a stork and as a heron but are  now placed in a separate family Scopidae between the herons and storks.  It  inhabits nearly the whole of Africa and Madagascar. It has unusually large wings for a bird of its size. Though not very big (50 cm /20 inches tall), it builds an enormous nest, some six feet in diameter, with a flat-topped roof and a small hole for entrance and exit, and placed either on a tree or a rocky ledge.

The bird, of an almost uniform brown colour, slightly glossed with purple and its tail is barred with black. It is somewhat sluggish by day, but displays much activity at dusk, when it will go through a series of strange performances (maybe one of them is landing and taking off practice at our pool)

There are many legends about the Hammerkop. In some regions, people state that other birds help it build its nest. The Xam said that when a Hammerkop flew and called over their camp, they knew that someone close to them had died. It is known in some cultures as the lightning bird, and the Kalahari Bushmen believe that being hit by lightning resulted from trying to rob a Hammerkop’s nest. They also believe that the god Khauna would not like anyone to kill a Hammerkop. According to an old Malagasy belief, anyone who destroys its nest will get leprosy, and a Malagasy poem calls it an “evil bird”. It is thought by some to be a “shape-changer”since people see the hammerkop fly in and then see another animal, such as a cobra, leave the nest. Since it is held in a position of respect, the bird survives and flourishes in the presence of man.

Images from Wikipedia


6 thoughts on “An edgy visitor – a hammerkop

  1. thanks for the smile and the image (touch and go practice at the bird airport alongside your pool). Maybe he’s checking out your new patio stone inserts. Blue’s always been a very fetching colour.


  2. Now…THAT is my kind of bird!! A tiny little bird and it has to live in a huge sprawling mansion! That is so cool! 🙂


  3. just saw the hammerkop, it really is weird on how i got to see it! Firstly i am a designer, and this other company had asked me to create a logo for them which primarily consisted of a hammerkop, the morning after submitting their logo, immediately when i open my door to go to work, bam, i see a hammerkop, and as i go to my car, it is still flying within my range! I am spooked, especially after reading these legends and superstitions of it being an evil bird, and to make it even more scary, the CEO of the company is a traditional healer!


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