hammer bird

Scopus umbretta

Common name

hammer bird


They live on the shores of lakes, rivers and estuaries in all wetland areas, including agricultural areas, as well as in savannahs and forests.




Pelicaniformes or Ciconiiformes




28-30 days

Number of offspring

3-7 eggs.




It consists mainly of amphibians (especially Xenopus spp.) and small fish, as well as crustaceans, worms and insects.



Biology and behavior

It is a medium-sized bird that takes its name from the shape of its head (similar to a hammer). Its plumage is completely brown. It is quite common in sub-Saharan Africa and tolerates human presence quite well.

They are diurnal, although like many other birds they carry out their activity mainly during dawn and dusk, spending the rest of the day perched on a branch.

This enigmatic bird builds enormous nests 1,5 meters deep and the same width. It takes the couple 3 to 6 weeks to finish. As if this were not enough, they build not one, but half a dozen nests throughout their territory, although they only use one. Why they do this is a mystery, but it does a favor for other birds that use them when hammerheads have abandoned them (like the verraux's eagle). Even if they are using them, their nests are shared with other smaller birds like sparrows. Even snakes, genets and monitor lizards use them to sleep.

The entrance to the nest is at the bottom to prevent possible predators from entering.


Their nests, in addition to being enormous, are solid, and can support the weight of an adult man.

It tolerates human presence very well and is revered by many local tribes. It is considered a magical bird due to its large and inaccessible and therefore mysterious nests and generates a large number of myths. The Hottentots and Zulus think that it is a bird that can predict who is going to die: the bird flies to the house of the person who is going to die and emits three warning cries. If a hammerhead bird flies over a person's head it means that something bad is going to happen to you that day. That's why people often throw stones at them.

African savanna
Equatorial jungle
Madagascar Island