The shoebill has an impressive bill that resembles a Dutch wooden shoe. Until recently, shoebills were considered part of the stork family; however, DNA studies revealed that they are more closely related to pelicans. So now, the shoebill is in the Order Pelecaniformes within its own family, Balaenicipitidae. It is often compared to a statue, as the bird stands still for long periods of time in marshes, waiting for a fishy meal to surface. This “freeze-and-seize" strategy ensures that the shoebill lands its prey.
Wild native birds, like egrets and herons, often hang out at the Safari Park, looking for free food. For this reason, our shoebills are often hand-fed a variety of thawed fish, crayfish, and mice, to ensure they get their meal. Still, the keeper has to dangle the food in front of the bird for a few seconds before the shoebill grabs it.
See if you can spot our shoebills on an island in the Lagoon.