Scientific Classification

Common Name
hammerkop, hammerhead stork, anvilhead
Genus Species
Scopus (broom made of twigs) umbretta (umbrella crest)

Fast Facts

The hammerkop has an all brown body, partially webbed toes, a short tail, and huge wings.  It has a distinctive large, crest on the back of the head and a thick, long beak.
47.5 to 50 cm (19 to 20 in.)
415 to 430 g (14.5 to 15.05 oz.)
Consists primarily of frogs, tadpoles, small fish, crustaceans, worms, and insects
Approximately 30 days
Clutch Size
3 to 7 eggs
Fledging Duration
7 weeks
Central and South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Madagascar
The species occupies a wide variety of habitats from forest to semi-desert, wherever water is available. It is most common in well-watered savanna or woodland and less common in forest, showing a general preference for permanent waters although it will also use temporary wetlands in arid areas.
The population size is very large with at least 10,000 mature adults and appears to be stable.
IUCN: Least concern
CITES: Not listed
USFWS:  Not listed

Fun Facts

Hammerkops are the smallest African stork.

Hammerkops sometimes participate in group ceremonies. As many as 10 birds call loudly while running round each other in circles. Next, a male will pretend to copulate with a female. With their crest raised, wings fluttering, a chorus of cries continues for several minutes. Only after this elaborate display, does breeding take place.

These birds are famous for their strong, three-tiered nests. The nest is up to 180 cm (6 ft.) high, 180 cm (6 ft.) wide, and can weigh 24.75 to 49.5 kg (55 to 110 lbs.). It is made of sticks, reeds, grass, and dead plant stems placed in a tree fork, on a cliff or on the ground. Such a structure takes 3 to 4 months to build and they often provide nests for other species such as owls, geese, ducks, kestrels, and pigeons.

Hammerhead birds are often seen perching on the back of hippopotamuses, searching for frogs.

Ecology and Conservation

According to superstition, hammerkops are bad omens, and it is considered bad luck to harm them. Such superstitions have kept the birds somewhat protected.

The species is potentially threatened by poor water quality caused by the excessive use of pesticides. The species is also hunted and traded at traditional medicine markets in Nigeria.


Gotch, A.F. Birds - Their Latin Names Explained. Poole, Dorst: Blandford Press, 1981.

Perrins, C. Birds: Their Life, Their Ways, Their World. New York: The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. 1979.

Perrins, C. M. And Dr. Alex L.A. Middleton, eds. The Encyclopedia of Birds. New York: Facts on File Pub. 1985.

Perrins, C. M. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Birds: The Definitive Reference to Birds of the World. New York: Prentice Hall Press. 1990.


BirdLife International. 2016. Scopus umbretta. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22697356A93610351. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22697356A93610351.en/. Downloaded on 05 November 2018.