Family Secretarybird (Sagittariidae)


Secretarybird (Sagittarius serpentarius)


French: Messager sagittaire German: Sekretär Spanish: Secretario

Falco serpentarius

J. F. Miller

, 1779,

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa


Birds of W Africa have occasionally been awarded subspecific status as gambiensis. Monotypic.


Senegambia E to Eritrea and Somalia, and S to South Africa.

Descriptive notes

125–150 cm; c. 2300–4270 g; wingspan 191–215 cm. Unmistakable, terrestrial raptor, with long pink legs, long black crest feathers, bare orange face, hooked... read more


Commonest call, from perch or in soaring flight, a fast, high-pitched "ko-ko-ko-ko-ka"; louder "... read more


Steppe or tree and grass savanna, favouring short grass with scattered acacia (Acacia)... read more

Food and feeding

Mostly arthropods, especially grasshoppers (Orthoptera) and beetles (Coleoptera), but devours most small animals, including frogs, lizards... read more


Nests at any time of year, whenever food abundant (nests recorded in virtually all months in Ethiopia and S Africa), usually to fledge... read more


Sedentary (with regular seasonal breeding) in some areas, but nomadic in most areas in response to... read more

Status and conservation

VULNERABLE. Recently uplisted. CITES II. Variously common to rare and localized; recent evidence suggests rapid decline across its huge range. Often locally common, both in... read more

Recommended citation

Kemp, A.C., Kirwan, G.M., Christie, D.A. & Marks, J.S. (2018). Secretarybird (Sagittarius serpentarius). 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 12 December 2018).