Family Hamerkop (Scopidae)

Least Concern

Hamerkop (Scopus umbretta)


French: Ombrette africaine German: Hammerkopf Spanish: Avemartillo

Scopus umbretta

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,



Birds from Madagascar sometimes considered a separate race, for which the name tenuirostris (based on specimens from EC Madagascar) is available. Proposed race bannermani (SW Kenya) included in nominate. Two subspecies normally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. u. minor Bates, 1931 – coastal belt of W Africa from Sierra Leone to E Nigeria.
  • S. u. umbretta J. F. Gmelin, 1789 – most of tropical Africa, SW Arabia, Madagascar.
  • Descriptive notes

    50–56 cm; 415–430 g. UnmistakableBird flying. Iridescent purplish gloss on back. Juvenile similar to adult. Race minor smaller and darker.


    Rather silent when alone, but vocal when with others. In flight utters repeated short, sharp high-... read more


    Wetlands of a wide variety, including estuaries, riverbanks, lakesides, fish ponds, irrigation... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mostly amphibians, especially frogs and tadpoles of genus Xenopus; in Mali, almost exclusively small fish (e.g. young Tilapia... read more


    Year-round in E Africa, elsewhere peaks at different times, mostly during late rains or dry season. Renowned for its extraordinarily... read more


    Sedentary, often with local movements; rarely occupies same nest for more than a few months. Some... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Frequent to locally abundant in African range; widespread and locally common in Madagascar. Protected by native superstition.... read more

    Recommended citation

    Elliott, A., Garcia, E.F.J. & Boesman, P. (2020). Hamerkop (Scopus umbretta). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 24 February 2020).