Kenya Birds

African Open-billed Stork


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African Open-billed Stork

Photograph(s) Copyright ©P&H HARRIS

Anastomus lamelligerus

Other Names

  English African Open-bill, African Openbill   French Bec-ouvert africain   German Mohrenklaffschnabel   Spanish Picotenaza Africano   Swedish Afrikansk gapnäbbstork   Dutch Afrikaanse Gaper   Italian Anastromo d'Africa

World: Africa - widespread S of 15°N except in the extreme SW of the continent and the forests of the Congo Basin. Mostly absent from the driest areas of E Somalia. Its range extends to W Madagascar.

Kenya: Most abundant in the Lake Victoria basin and coastal lowlands but it is a wanderer to many other locations across the country

Despite wandering into areas far from water this bird is principally associated with extensive stretches of fresh water. It is typically a bird of marshes, swamps and lakes where it feeds primarily on molluscs. The unusual looking bill is specialised for extraction of snails from their shells. This is not done, as you might expect, by using the bill as a set of nutcrackers with the snail held in the opening. Instead the Open-billed Stork steadies the snail with its upper mandible (usually this is done underwater) and then the tip of the lower mandible (which is extremely sharp) is used to slip under the bony shield which protects the snail. The lower mandible is then used to cut the muscle holding the snail in place and the body of the snail is extracted whole for immediate consumption. Mussels and other bi-valves are handled in a similar way with the lower mandible being used to slice the muscle which keeps the 2 halves of the shell tightly closed.

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