Sometimes described as Africa’s ‘marching eagle’, the secretarybird prefers to move around on foot, easily covering between 20 and 30 kilometres a day when hunting for food (2). It spends much of its time stalking across the open ground, periodically stopping and stamping the floor to strike prey, which it will usually crush underfoot or repeatedly kick, before swallowing whole (2) (4) (5). The secretarybird’s diet primarily consists of large insects and small mammals, mainly rodents. However, it will feed opportunistically on any animal it comes across on its wandering travels, including hares, mongooses, squirrels, snakes, lizards, amphibians, freshwater crabs, and birds up to the size of guineafowl, as well as their eggs. Secretarybirds have also been known to take domestic chickens when foraging in areas close to human habitation (2) (5).
The secretarybird breeds year-round, but with a distinct peak during the spring and summer months further south. Two to three broods are often reared in productive years after good rainfall (7). The secretarybird makes a nest out of sticks, creating a large platform on a flat-topped acacia tree or other thorny bush, and lining it with dry grass and other materials. It may also nest in non-thorny or exotic tree species if preferred nesting sites are not available.
Following a courtship that is performed in flight and includes pendulum displays and calling (5), the female secretarybird will lay a clutch of one to three eggs, which are incubated for around 42 to 46 days. The nestling period typically lasts between 65 to 106 days, with a post fledging-dependence period of 62 to 105 days. After this time the juvenile secretarybirds will leave the parental territory and range over long distances, displaying characteristic nomadic behaviour as immature birds (7).