The African openbill is a stork 80–94 cm long with a weight of 1–1.3 kg. Its adult plumage is generally dark overall, with glossy green, brown, and purple on the mantle and breast. The bill is brownish and notably large. The legs are black and the eye is grey. The juvenile plumage is more dull and brown, with areas of pale feather tips.
Habitat and distribution
It is a bird of shallow wetlands and can be found wherever its molluscan prey is available, including temporarily flooded pans, flood plains, swamps, marshes, ponds, streams, river shallows, dams, rice paddies, lagoons, lake margins and intertidal mud flats.
The African openbill feeds almostly exclusively on aquatic snails and freshwater mussels. It will, however, also eat terrestrial snail, frogs, crabs, fish, worms, and large insects. It uses its bill to detects its prey, and can use it in such a way that it easily pries open molluscs. It tends to feed singly or in small groups.
The African openbill is mainly resident and non-migratory; however, it may undertake nomadic movements. Sometimes flocks move away from arid regions when the dry season begins.
African openbills breed during the rainy season, when snails are more available. During that period, they perform complex displays, often involving bobbing, bill-clattering, and rocking back and forth with the head held between the legs. They nest in colonies in trees, as is typical of storks. The nest is made of sticks and reeds, and is roughly 50 cm wide. Storks typically lay 3–4 oval, chalky-white eggs. Eggs are incubated by both sexes for 25–30 days. The chicks and downy and black, with a smaller bill, and they leave the nest 50–55 days later.
- BirdLife International (2018). "Anastomus lamelligerus". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2018: e.T22697664A132274733. Retrieved 24 December 2018.
- Bouglouan, Nicole. "African Openbill". oiseaux-birds.com. oiseaux-birds. Retrieved November 1, 2015.
- "Anastomus lamelligerus (African openbill, Openbilled stork)". Biodiversity Explorer. Iziko Museums of South Africa. Archived from the original on 2011-10-03. Retrieved 2016-11-08.
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