Shoebills are compared to statues as they stand perfectly still for long periods in marshes. Shoebills are rare and localized species listed among the vulnerable birds estimated to have a single small population. Shoebills are scientifically known as Balaeniceps rex and commonly known as whale head or shoe billed stork. They derive their name from its massive shoe shaped bill. The shoe bill’s body is covered with bluish-grey plumage, long black legs, broad wings and muscular neck, pale yellow eyes, greenish-brown huge shoe shaped- beck which measures 9 inches long and 4 inches wide and ends with a nail like hook which is used to kill prey. Shoe bills have very sharp edges on their bills that are ideal for capturing and eating prey. They usually feed during the night, it can ambush predators and it can stay silent for very long period of time while waiting for the prey to appear. Shoe bill prey includes African lung fish, water snakes, water birds, young crocodiles and frogs.
Shoe bills are mostly solitary birds in nature which only come together when food is scarce or to breed. They are rarely found in groups. Shoe bill breeding coincides with the dry season which may help prevent their large flat nests from flooding. Shoe bills lay between 1 to 3 eggs at an interval of up to 5 days, incubation lasts about 30 days and is shared by both parents, by this time the eggs are turned and kept cool by pouring water and wet weeds over the nest and upon hatching the chicks are cared for by both parents. Shoe bills rarely raise more than one chick but will hatch more. The younger chicks are intended as back-ups in case the eldest dies or is weak. Fledgeling is reached at a round 105 days and the chicks can fly well by 112days.
Shoe bills are normally silent but perform bill-clattering displays at the nest. Both nestlings and adults engage in bill clattering during the nesting season as a means of communication. The young birds produce hiccup like sound when they are hungry. Sexual maturity is estimated at a round 3 years. Shoe bills live up to 30 plus years in captivity.
Shoebills live in wetlands areas, fresh water swamps, dense marshes and areas with papyrus, reeds and grass bed. In Uganda shoe bills can be found a round Lake Kyoga, shores of Lake Victoria, Murchison falls National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, and Queen Elizabeth National Park. The shoe bill is listed as a vulnerable species in the wild. The number of shoe bill has decreased due to habitat loss, destruction of nests, increased hunting and pet trade.