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Piggy: Female, born October 12, 1999 at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. She arrived at the Zoo on October 8, 2002.
McNeil Avian Center
Hammerkops are a small, brown wading bird thought to be closely related to the storks (in the Order Ciconiiformes) although recent DNA evidence places them closer to the herons and flamingos (in the Order Charadriiformes). You can often find them shuffling through shallow water raking up aquatic insects, small fish and frogs with their feet.
Longevity of individuals in the wild is not well known. Hammerkops can live at least into their 20’s in captivity but this species was not common in zoos until recently so their true longevity is not yet known.
One of the most distinctive aspects of the hammerkop’s behavior is the extremely large nest that these relatively small birds build. This nest of sticks, mud and grass can weigh more than 100 times the weight of the bird and may be one of the largest nests of any bird. Hammerkops are compulsive nest builders although the actual function of such a big nest is unknown although protection within the large cavity formed in the middle may be a factor. A pair of hammerkop may build multiple nests each year on their territory. This is good news for many other animals as Egyptian geese, speckled pigeons, barn owls and honey bees have all been known to use abandoned hammerkop nests.
Hammerkops appear to breed year-round in east Africa and breed primarily during the dry season in other locations. After building their large nest, a pair will lay from 3 to 6 eggs inside the central chamber. The eggs will hatch in 28 to 32 days and the chicks will fledge from the nest about 50 days later.
Hammerkops stand about 21 inches tall.
Male and female are similar and weigh just under a pound.
In the wild, hammerkops feed mainly on tadpoles, insects, small fish, and occasionally small rodents. At the Zoo, the base diet for the hammerkop is a commercially made meat based diet. The enrichment portion of the diet includes a variety of insects, small fish and occasionally baby mice (pinkies).
Wetlands, open woodlands and savannahs throughout most of tropical Africa.
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