Birds

Ostrich

The ostrich is the largest and heaviest living bird. A flightless bird that can never take to the skies, it’s built for running. Its long, thick, and powerful legs can cover great distances without much effort. Ostrich feet have just two toes for greater speed. When threatened, an ostrich runs away or defends itself with a forceful kick.

Heron

Herons catch live prey, especially in the water. Their neck has an elongated sixth vertebra, forming a kinked “S” shape. This helps herons retract and extend their neck quickly. The long, straight bill is used as a harpoon to capture fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, small mammals, insects, mollusks, and crustaceans. Herons stand motionless, waiting for prey to come into striking distance.

Largest of the herons is the goliath heron, found throughout sub-Saharan Africa. It stands up to 4.6 feet (140 centimeters) and has a wingspan of up to 7.5 feet (230 centimeters).

Storm’s Stork

The Storm's stork is one of the rarest birds at the Safari Park. The colorful, medium-sized storks are native to forested peat swamps in Indonesia and Malaysia. They feed on fish but may also eat reptiles, frogs, or large insects. Storm's storks form pair bonds that can last for years. They may reuse their nest, freshening it up with sticks and mud each year. Stork nests used over time can become huge, measuring six feet across!

Flamingo

With their pink and crimson plumage, long legs and neck, and hooked bill, flamingos cannot be mistaken for any other type of bird. They live in lagoons or large, shallow lakes. These bodies of water may be quite salty or caustic: too much so for most other animals. In some lakes, their only animal “neighbors” are algae, diatoms, and small crustaceans. That works in the flamingo’s favor, as the birds dine on these small creatures!

Shoebill Stork

The shoebill stork has an impressive bill that resembles a Dutch wooden shoe. Although related to storks, the shoebill’s unusual bill and other characteristics place it in a family all its own. It is often compared to a statue, as the bird stands still for long periods of time in marshes, waiting for a fishy meal to surface. This “freeze-and-seize" strategy ensures that the stork lands its prey.

Hammerkop

The backward-pointing crest of the hammerkop gives it its alternate name: hammerhead. Found in the woodlands and wetlands of Africa, the hammerkop is a wading bird famous for its enormous, domed nest. The birds plaster the inside walls of their home with mud.

Look for the nest made by our hammerkops in the Wings of the World aviary near the Safari Park’s entrance. These nests often weigh up to 100 pounds. Can you see the nest's entrance hole on the side? The hammerkops live inside their nest, not on top of it. Other birds might build nests on top of the hammerkops' nest!

Pelican

It is easy to identify pelicans, because they are one of the only birds with a pouch under their bill. This enormous, naked-skin pouch hangs from the lower half of the pelican's long, straight bill, hooked at the tip. The bird uses this pouch to catch fish.

Pelicans have been one of the Safari Park’s big success stories. We have the most comprehensive and productive collection of pelicans in North America. We are also the only accredited facility with great white, Dalmatian, and pink-backed pelicans.

California Condor

Native American tribes respect the California condor and see it as a symbol of power. In legends, they call it the "thunderbird," bringing thunder to the skies with the beating of its huge wings. Yet, the California condor population was almost wiped out by the destruction of habitat, poaching, and lead poisoning. In 1982, only 22 birds remained in the wild. San Diego Zoo Global received permission to begin the first captive propagation program for California condors. Thanks to the California Condor Recovery Program, the population of California condors has grown to more than 400 birds.

Secretary Bird

Standing over four feet tall, secretary birds cruise through Africa's tall grass on long legs while looking for a meal. They prefer savannas and open grasslands where they can see around them while strolling. But can they fly? Of course! Secretary birds are good fliers and nest and roost in acacia trees at night.

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