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Leptoptilos crumeniferus (Marabou stork) 

Maraboe [Afrikaans]; Nyumbu [Kwangali]; Mmakaitšimeletša [North Sotho]; Svorenyama [Shona]; Ghumba [Tsonga]; Afrikaanse maraboe [Dutch]; Marabout d'Afrique [French]; Marabu [German]; Marabu [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora >Aves (birds) > Order: Ciconiiformes > Family: Ciconiidae

Leptoptilos crumeniferus (Marabou stork)  Leptoptilos crumeniferus (Marabou stork) 
Marabou stork, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©] Marabou stork. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occupies much of sub-Saharan Africa, largely excluding the lowland forest of West Africa. In southern Africa, it is fairly common to locally abundant in central and southern Mozambique, Zimbabwe, north-eastern South Africa, northern Botswana and central and northern Namibia (including the Caprivi Strip). It generally prefers open semi-arid habitats and wetlands, such as pans, dams and rivers.

Distribution of Marabou stork in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

Resident and nomadic, following patterns of localised rainfall.


It behaves in a manner similar to vultures, as it is primarily a scavenger, soaring overhead in search of carcasses. It is also an opportunistic hunter, catching fish by wading through water and stabbing them with its bill, hawking termites aerially, hunting birds and raiding their nests. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Monogamous, usually breeding in colonies of 10-30, rarely over 100 breeding pairs, often alongside other stork species, cormorants, ibises and herons.
  • The nest is built by the female in about 7-10 days with material provided by the male, consisting of a platform of sticks with a shallow central bowl, lined with twigs, grass and green leaves. It is typically placed in a tall Baobab (Adansonia digitata) or a dense thicket of Water figs (Ficus verruculosa), anywhere from 2-40 metres above ground.
  • Egg-laying season is from May-January, peaking from June-September.
  • It lays 1-4 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for roughly 29-31 days.
  • The chicks are brooded for the first 10 days or so of their lives then intermittently thereafter, with both parents feeding and brooding them. They take their first flight at about 95-115 days old, becoming fully independent roughly 130 days later.


Not globally threatened, but Near-threatened in South Africa, due its small population in the country.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.