Secretary Bird

Big, beautiful birds


style When they think of birds, some people picture little creatures in cages that sit on perches and sing. Well, in the case of some of our other feathered friends, that thinking is, well, for the birds! Because when it comes to the awesome avian wonders you can find at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park, big is beautiful!

Secretary bird running with wings spread

Take note

One really cool big bird is the secretary bird. This African bird, which can measure almost 5 feet from the top of its head to the end of its tail feathers, is known for its impressive crown of feathers (which gives the bird its name, because those head feathers look like old-fashioned writing pens) and its snake-killing skills!

Shoebill stork

No deliveries

Another big bird, the stork, can be found on every continent in the world except Antarctica. And while they may not really deliver babies, storks, like the shoebill stork, are still interesting animals. They have long legs that allow the stork to take long strides and wade into deep water or tall grasses and reeds in search of food. And that long neck allows them to stretch out to capture their prey.



You're grounded!

Also from Africa, the ostrich is a noteworthy non-flying big bird. It is the biggest and heaviest of birds, so it makes sense that they don’t take to the air. But boy, can they run—up to 40 miles per hour! Their little wings may not help them fly, but do help ostriches keep their balance.

Emu walking in purple flower field

Up and running

Emus are the ostrich’s Australian cousin. It is also flightless, but when it runs, its stride can be almost 9 feet long! And these big birds like to test the waters—they are good swimmers. They are natural runners, and are the only birds with calf muscles. Their feet have three toes and fewer bones and muscles than those of flying birds. Their strong legs also allow the bird to jump 7 feet straight up. It’s hard to keep a good emu down!