Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Secretary Bird - The Snake Bearer!

This 1.3m tall bird of prey stands out like no other. Its name, most appropriate. Sagittarius serpentarius, Sagitarius is the atrology star sign of the archer and Serpentarius is "Snake Bearer" also commonly associated with the star sign Ophiuchus - a man bearing a snake.

In 1779 English illustrator John Frederick Miller was the first European to describe the secretarybird and it was soon after assigned to its own genus Sagittarius by French naturalist Johann Hermann, but it was not until 1935 that the species was moved to its own family, distinct from all other birds of prey. 

Its common name is popularly thought to derive from the crest of long quill-like feathers, lending the bird the appearance of a secretary with quill pens tucked behind their ear, as was once common practice. A more recent hypothesis is that "secretary" is borrowed from a French corruption of the Arabic saqr-et-tair or "hunter-bird".

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Photo by: Willem Kruger