We had been on safari for about two weeks when my wife Amanda and I, along with our friends, boarded a small boat on the Victoria Nile in Uganda to specifically go looking for shoebills (Balaeniceps rex). While not rare birds, they can be difficult to spot as they occur in relatively low densities among thick stands of papyrus in meandering waterways and marshes. We were all delighted to find this individual out in the open and seemingly posing for our photos. It was even more special to watch it snatch up a catfish and then take its time softening it before swallowing it in a large gulp.

Shoebills were commonly called shoebill storks since it was difficult to determine their closest avian relatives with all the unique and unusual features they possess. Using genetic and genomic data, it now seems that their closest relatives may be pelicans. What seems abundantly clear when you see this four foot tall bird is that its relationship to non-avian dinosaurs is obvious.

Nikon D500


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