Scopus umbretta

The hamerkop is a wading bird native to Arabia, Africa and Madagascar. Because of its unique characteristics, it is classified within its own family and genus.

Hamerkop behavior and facts

  • The hamerkop occupies a variety of habitats ranging from forest to semi-desert, as long as fresh water is available.
  • It preys primarily on amphibians, but will also eat crustaceans, small fish and insects.
  • Hamerkop build the largest domed nest of any bird. A hamerkop pair will gather over 10,000 sticks to construct their nest, which can support the weight of an adult human.
  • Other birds, genets, snakes and bees will reside in a hamerkop nest even when the hamerkop is present. 
  • Hamerkop practice a poorly understood behavior known as "false-mounting," where male and females hop onto each other backs without attempting to mate.

From birth to death

  • Hamerkop breed year-round in East Africa but peak during the rainy and dry seasons elsewhere.
  • Clutch: 3 to 6 eggs
  • Because nestlings and eggs are so vulnerable to predators, a hamerkop pair rarely raises more than one chick per year.


IUCN least concern

Hamerkop, the Oregon Zoo and you

The zoo's hamerkop lives in the Howard Vollum Aviary exhibit.