At the Detroit Zoo
When visitors enter the Matilda R. Wilson Free-Flight Aviary, they can look up high to see the mansion-sized nest built by the hamerkops. The nest measures approximately 6 by 4 feet, weighs around 200 pounds and was built using up to 10,000 sticks, grass, mud and palm fronds and anything the birds could find that was colorful. The Aviary has more than 30 species of birds that are free to fly, walk or swim among the cover of lush tropical plants in a warm and inviting climate.
The hamerkop is an African wading bird that has sepia-brown plumage with an iridescent purple sheen on its back. A thick crest combined with the black, vertically flattened, stout bill give its head the shape of an anvil.
Scientific name: Scopus umbretta
Habitat: Savannahs, woodlands and wetlands
Size: 22 inches
Weight: 14 to 15 ounces
Diet: Fish, shrimp, frogs, tadpoles and insects
Reproduction: Three to six eggs that incubate for 30 days
Lifespan: 20 years
Conservation Status: Least Concern
The hamerkop holds the record for building the largest roofed nests, which may measure up to 6.5 feet wide and 6.5 feet deep. These nests are structurally sound, and will support the weight of a man.
Most pairs of hamerkops will build three to five nests; oftentimes they are kicked out of their nests by other animals.