“Remarkable bird, beautiful plumage.” Norwegian Blue Parrot sketch, Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
I admit, it does look ugly, but it is prettier than the Marabou Stork. The young birds have grey, dull feathers. When first looked at the birds in April, they looked interesting because of their huge yellow beak. But the other day I caught a glimpse of a roseate pink colour in the detail of the back feathers. I was astounded.
They catch fish, frogs and lizards in rivers and marshy ground, using several techniques. The best known is the umbrella trick. The bird forms its wings into an umbrella, shading the water so fish cannot see the stork against the sky. Then the stork wiggles one of its legs off to one side and flushes out small fish into the shaded open where they can be picked off.
Another technique is to wander along a small stream, with an open beak in the water, moving from right to left, hopefully picking up fish on the way.
They also just stand and wait for something edible to come their way.
North of Nsefu, there is a large colony of storks. On my trip to Tafika last week, formations of juvenile storks flew into the sunset, following the course of the Luangwa River. I also saw them practising their fishing techniques on the sandbanks of the river, east of Lion Camp.