Animals & Attractions

We currently have two hamerkops in our collection. 

Breeding Programme Category:

Our hamerkops are managed by the European Stud Book (ESB).

Location in the Zoo:

They can be found in our African aviary near the African hunting dogs.

In the Wild

The hamerkop (Scopus umbretta) is a unique species, not closely related to any other birds in the world.  Despite being a rather common-looking, medium-sized brown bird, the hamerkop is rather unusual in a number of ways.

Hamerkops are wide spread throughout sub-Saharan Africa and occur in a wide variety of habitats ranging from forests to semi-desert. Hamerkops need to be close to water and trees, as their diet consists mainly of amphibians (frogs and tadpoles), small fish and crustaceans, as well as worms and insects.  Hamerkops depend on the availability of trees for their remarkable nesting behaviour.

These birds are most well-known for their large, domed nests. In fact they build the largest nests of any bird in Africa! Pairs build the nest together, collecting thousands twigs and other items to make it. A finished nest can contain as many as 8,000 items and weigh at least 25 kg, however this nest is only accessed by a small entrance hole.

Many other species also use hamerkop nests by attaching their own smaller nests to it, for shelter or older nests are sometimes used by other bird species.

During breeding season hamerkops will gather near nesting sites for courtship displays. Once the nest is complete the female will lay between 3 and 7 eggs and they both take turns sitting on the eggs during the 30 day incubation period. Both parents help feed the chicks once they hatch out and after about 50 days the chicks are ready to leave the nest.

Hamekops are quite numerous however, they do face the potential threat of wetland habitat deterioration due to the excessive use of pesticides in farming.

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