Family Shoebill (Balaenicipitidae)


Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex)


French: Bec-en-sabot du Nil German: Schuhschnabel Spanish: Picozapato

Balaeniceps rex


, 1850,

upper White Nile




South Sudan and SW Ethiopia to S DRCongo and N Zambia; irregular non-breeding visitor in Central African Republic.

Descriptive notes

120 cm; male 6·7 kg, female 4·36–5·9 kg. Unmistakable, with unique, highly conspicuous bill; flight-feathers darker, dull green gloss on upperparts, iris variable, grey... read more


Usually silent, although may utter an occasional raucous cry when soaring. At nest utters a high-... read more


Inhabits extensive marshes particularly, although not exclusively, those formed by a mixture of... read more

Food and feeding

Fish, particularly lungfish (Protopterus aethiopicus), are the principal prey. Other fish taken include the Senegal bichir (... read more


Timing of breeding season is linked to water levels. Eggs laid at end of rains, as waters start to recede, and chicks fledge in late dry... read more


Sedentary. Small-scale displacements for feeding occur, related to changes in water levels. In S... read more

Status and conservation

VULNERABLE. CITES II. Recent estimates have put the global population at 5000–8000 birds but this figure may be too low and there may be up to 10,000 individuals. In... read more

Recommended citation

Elliott, A., Garcia, E.F.J. & Boesman, P. (2019). Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex). 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 25 May 2019).