zoo horizontal strip
Ongoing updates and improvements

Secretary bird

Sagittarius serpentarius

Female secretary bird at Paignton Zoo
IUCN Conservation Status –
Least Concern
Extinct In The Wild
Class: Birds
Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Sagittariidae

Paignton Zoo is one of only two UK zoos to house the magnificent secretary bird! This bird of prey lives in open savannahs and grasslands in sub-Saharan Africa.

You may have guessed that this bird is a top carnivore. They eat snakes, mice, locusts, lizards and bird eggs.

Interesting facts!

  • This tall bird has the longest legs of any bird of prey and prefers to strut around on foot rather than fly.
  • It is thought that this species gets its ‘secretary’ name from the long, quill-like feathers on the back of its head.
  • Secretary birds are normally silent, but they can produce a deep guttural croaking noise in courtship displays.
  • A male and a female form a monogamous breeding pair that lasts for life. The female lays a clutch of one to three elongated blue, green or white eggs. The eggs are incubated by both parents and they hatch after around 45 days.


Despite their large range, the total population of secretary birds in the wild is on the decline. Loss of habitat for development is likely the top reason for this.