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Photo Information
Copyright: Peter van Zoest (PeterZ) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5137 W: 166 N: 13121] (49139)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2008-08-12
Categories: Birds
Camera: Nikon D300, AF Nikkor 70-300mm f4-5.6 G, Digital RAW
Exposure: f/5.6, 1/1600 seconds
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2009-02-07 3:56
Viewed: 8212
Points: 64
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
The Hamerkop (Scopus umbretta), also known as Hammerkop, Hammerkopf, Hammerhead, Hammerhead Stork, Umbrette, Umber Bird, Tufted Umber, or Anvilhead, is a medium-sized wading bird (56 cm long, weighing 470 g). The shape of its head with a curved bill and crest at the back is reminiscent of a hammer, hence its name.

Its plumage is a drab brown with purple iridescence on the back. The bill is long, flat, and slightly hooked. It looks similar to those of the Shoebill and the Boat-billed Heron, probably because of convergent evolution. The neck and legs are shorter than those of most of the Ciconiiformes. The Hammerkop has partially webbed feet, for unknown reasons. It middle toe is comb-like (pectinated) like a heron's. Its tail is short and its wings are big, wide, and round-tipped; it soars well. When it does so, it stretches its neck forward like a stork or ibis, but when it flaps, it coils its neck back something like a heron.
Vocalisations include cackles and a shrill call given in flight. Hammerkops are mostly silent except when in groups.

Range and habitat
The Hammerkop occurs in Africa south of the Sahara, Madagascar and coastal southwest Arabia in all wetland habitats, including irrigated land such as rice paddies, as well as in savannas and forests. Most remain sedentary in their territories, which are held by pairs, but some move into suitable habitat during the wet season only. Whenever people create new bodies of water with dams or canals, Hammerkops move in quickly.

Hammerkops feed during the day, often taking a break at noon to roost. They normally feed alone or in pairs. The food is typical of long-legged wading birds, and the most important is Xenopus tadpoles and frogs. They also eat insects, shrimp, fish, rodents and similar small animals. They walk in shallow water looking for prey, possibly raking their feet on the bottom or suddenly opening their wings to flush prey out of hiding. They may also take prey while they fly, particularly tadpoles.

Social behavior and reproduction.
The Hammerkop's behavior is unlike other birds'. One unusual feature is that up to ten birds join in "ceremonies" in which they run circles around each other, all calling loudly, raising their crests, fluttering their wings. Another is "false mounting", in which one bird stands on top of another and appears to mount it, but they may not be mates and do not copulate.

The strangest aspect of Hammerkop behavior is the huge nest, sometimes more than 1.5 m across, comprising perhaps 10,000 sticks and strong enough to support a man's weight. The birds decorate the outside with any bright-coloured objects they can find. When possible, they build the nest in the fork of a tree, often over water, but if necessary they build on a bank, a cliff, a human-built wall or dam, or on the ground. A pair starts by making a platform of sticks held together with mud, then builds walls and a domed roof. A mud-plastered entrance 13 to 18 cm wide in the bottom leads through a tunnel up to 60 cm long to a nesting chamber big enough for the parents and young.
These birds are compulsive nest builders, constructing 3 to 5 nests per year whether they are breeding or not. Barn Owls and eagle owls may force them out and take over the nests, but when the owls leave, the Hammerkops may reuse the nests. Snakes, small mammals such as genets, and various birds live in abandoned nests, and weaver birds, mynas, and pigeons may attach their nests to the outside.
At the finished nest, a pair gives displays similar to those of the group ceremonies and mates, often on top of the nest. The clutch consists of 3 to 7 eggs that start white but soon become stained. Both sexes incubate for 28 to 30 days. Both feed the young, often leaving them alone for long times; this unusual habit for wading birds may be made possible by the thick nest walls. The young hatch covered with gray down. By 17 days after hatching, their head and crest plumage is developed, and in a month, their body plumage. They leave the nest at 44 to 50 days but roost in it at night until about two months after hatching.

The Hamerkop is usually included in the Ciconiiformes, but might be closer to the Pelecaniformes. It constitutes a family (Scopidae) and genus (Scopus) all on its own because of its unique characteristics.

There are many legends about the Hammerkop. In some regions, people state that other birds help it build its nest. The Xam informants of Wilhelm Bleek said that when a Hammerkop flew and called over their camp, they knew that someone close to them had died. It is known in some cultures as the lightning bird, and the Kalahari Bushmen believe or believed that being hit by lightning resulted from trying to rob a Hammerkop's nest. They also believe that the inimical god Khauna would not like anyone to kill a Hammerkop. According to an old Malagasy belief, anyone who destroys its nest will get leprosy, and a Malagasy poem calls it an "evil bird". Such beliefs have given the bird some protection.

Source: Wikipedia

Tamrock, uleko, pvs, haraprasan, Argus, red45, siggi, eng55, jaycee, nglen, CeltickRanger, xTauruSx, Silvio2006, efsus, boreocypriensis, Dis. Ac., albert, saguzar, Alex99, Adanac, jusninasirun, jtkerb, maurydv has marked this note useful
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Critiques [Translate]

hi peter!
the hammerkop is a really cool bird!
i got it in gambia
sharp with fine exposure and well composed
nice to see!

  • Great 
  • zetu Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 967 W: 26 N: 3888] (16941)
  • [2009-02-07 5:03]

Hello Peter
Sharp image with beautiful colors.

  • Great 
  • uleko Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3396 W: 172 N: 3310] (10940)
  • [2009-02-07 5:52]

Hello Peter,
Like Tamrock I've seen this species in Gambia and I really enjoyed watching its funny ceremonies! This is a fine close capture showing great sharpness and natural colours.
Many thanks and regards, Ulla

  • Great 
  • pvs Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1127 W: 254 N: 3161] (14464)
  • [2009-02-07 6:02]

Ha Peter,

Een mooie vangst,deze hamerkop,goede kleuren en compositie,volgens mij is hij op zoek naar een lekker kikkertje oid,daar hij zo geinteresseeerd naar de grond aan het staren is,prettig weekend


Hi Peter,
A nice capture of this beautiful Hammerkop bird. Excellent sharp details and a lovely composition. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  • Great 
  • Argus Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5038 W: 260 N: 15594] (50626)
  • [2009-02-07 7:18]

hello Peter,
A fine capture of a Hammerkop taken from a great POV with excellent sharpness against a contrasting OOF grassy BG in a fine composition. Nice eye contact too!
TFS and have a good weekend,

  • Great 
  • red45 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2636 W: 74 N: 9091] (31094)
  • [2009-02-07 8:12]

Hello Peter!

Perfect name for this bird :-) Another beautifull picture from Africa from your archives. Very interesting and rare bird captured in very good way, with high quality and nice green BG.

  • Great 
  • siggi Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3097 W: 109 N: 12399] (52850)
  • [2009-02-07 8:43]

Hello Peter,
Very nice picture of this Hamerkop. Very nice composition, good focus and sharpness. Nice natural colours.
Best regards Siggi

Hallo Peter,
Hamerkop...nog niet kunnen fotograferen in Afrika.
Heeft precies nogal wat namen meegekregen. Waarschijnlijk om het eenvoudig te houden.
Speciaal hoofd maar ook die bek is ongewoon.
De kleur vind ik helemaal niet saai. Drab brown?
Bedankt voor je "evil bird":-)

  • Great 
  • eng55 Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1256 W: 42 N: 1976] (5892)
  • [2009-02-07 9:04]

Hi Peter,
Funny capture.Befor i opened the thumbnail i thought that you cloned the part of his head with greenery:)Clear eyes,pose of bird and details are perfect.
Thanks for posting.

  • Great 
  • cako Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 485 W: 0 N: 772] (3395)
  • [2009-02-07 9:08]

Hi Peter
ver nice image
well done.

it's a very sharp picture of a beautiful bird with natural colours , perfect light and fine details ,
great POV ,
well done !

  • Great 
  • jaycee Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2454 W: 10 N: 8044] (25460)
  • [2009-02-07 9:23]

Hi Peter,

A great shot of this strange looking bird - I would love to see one of these! The head is magnificent with the odd shape, long beak, and wonderful eye. Colors and details of the face and feathers are superb. He shows of beautifully on the green grass. A fantastic composition.


  • Great 
  • Mana Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1772 W: 36 N: 5597] (18598)
  • [2009-02-07 9:47]

Hi Peter,
Wonderful shot of this great looking Hamerkop with very impressive sharpness and details. It stands out well from the greenery. Superb lighting, POV, DOF and composition.

  • Great 
  • nglen Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2883 W: 30 N: 9683] (36145)
  • [2009-02-07 11:05]

Hi Peter. Firstly thanks for the interesting notes about the unusual bird and its large nest . It sounds a work of art and very strong. Your low POV from the side lets us see this bird so well . You have taken it with fine detail and nati
ural looking colours. A very strange looking head and featehrs on the top . well TFS.

Hello Peter,
What a particular looking bird! It is very special and unusual looking! This is a beautiful capture with good composition and details. Love this little catch-light in its eye. Your notes about this specie are very interesting. TFS,

hello Peter

amazing African bird it is the first time i see one,
photo shot with fine POV, DOF and framing,
excellent sharpness and details of its dark plumage,
i love that dark colour tones of the plumage,
on the small birds the catch-lights render always
the photographys more beautiful, it is the same
thing with the large bird like on this photo, TFS


Hi Peter,
this is an interesting bird. This head, the beak, you are realy a lucky guy to see such an amazing bird. Thanks for sharing it with us, greetings
Sabine - wishnugaruda

Hello Peter, wonderful shot of this strange bird. Your notes are also great.
TFS and regards,

Ciao Peter, great capture of strange bird, fine details and excellent sharpness, very well done, ciao Silvio

  • Great 
  • efsus Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 415 W: 11 N: 843] (3947)
  • [2009-02-07 13:18]

Merhaba Peter,
Bu çok ilginç kuşu hem bu güzel fotoğrafla ve hem de verdiğiniz çok bilgilerle bizlere tanıttığın için size çok teşekkür ederim. Bu fotoğrafı izlemeden önce bu kuş hakkında hiç bilgim yoktu. Fotoğraf olarak da üst düzey bir çalışma sunmuşsunuz. Tebrikler.


hallo Peter
weer een mooie foto
een super opname van deze vogel
groetjes lou

Hi Peter! an excellent capture of this strange beauty with nice composition, wonderful dof, nice pov and good lighting.
TFS and Have a nice Sunday!


Hallo Peter,

Dit is een aparte vogel maar wel mooi in beeld gebracht.
goed van detailering en de donkere kleuren steken mooi af met het groene gras.

Hello Peter,
Very good capture of this hammerkop, sharp details of its plumage and very natural colours

Hi Peter,
A rare bird but beautiful at same time, looks like cute with its long feathers behind the head. Name in spanish is ave martillo

  • Great 
  • Alex99 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 4072 W: 133 N: 7096] (23735)
  • [2009-02-08 8:19]

Hi Peter.
What a wonderful and funny a bit bird you have met and pictured with great skill. Excellent DOF and details of the bird. I also like pleasant passage form sharpness of the grass to blurriness of the BG. However, the key point of the image wonderful reproduction of the plumage of the bird and its unusual shapes. Low POV is great for this purpose. My compliments and all the best.

Hello Peter

A very unique looking bird.
Well captured showing the plumage well.
Good colour saturation ,the shot is well illuminated.
Your low POV was well chosen to show this bird off.


Hi Peter

Very good the contrast between the bird and the grass, sharp and POV as well.

Best regards


  • Great 
  • Adanac Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1273 W: 1 N: 6188] (21378)
  • [2009-02-08 21:36]

Hello Peter,
What a strange looking bird you captured so superbly here. The plumage details are sharp and the setting very unintrusive. Thank you for sharing.

Hi Peter,

Thanks for sharing this image of a strange bird that I have never seen before. Yes, it does look like a hammer and you have framed the image well showing the fine details and well exposed plumage.

TFS and best regards,

Hello Peter,
a beautiful and interesting capture of Hamerkop, good sharpness and fine details, excellent POV, nice pose of the bird, very well composed.
Best regards
Have a good weekend

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