1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Shoe-bill

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Britannica Shoe-bill.png
After J. Wolf in Trans. Zool. Soc.
Shoe-Bill or Whale-headed Heron.

SHOE-BILL, a huge African bird from the White Nile, the Balaeniceps rex of ornithology, now regarded as a giant heron. It was first brought to Europe by M. Parkyns and described by J. Gould in the Zoological Proceedings (1851, pp. 1, 2, pl. xxxv.) as an abnormal pelican. This view was disputed by Reinhardt (op. cit. 1860, p. 377), and wholly dispelled by W. K. Parker in the Zoological Transactions (iv. pp. 269-351), though these two authors disagreed as to its affinities, the first placing it with the storks, the last assigning it to the herons. In singularity of aspect few birds surpass Balaeniceps, with its gaunt grey figure, some 5 ft. in height, its large head surmounted by a little curled tuft, the scowling expression of its eyes and its huge bill in form not unlike a whale's head — this last suggesting its generic name — but tipped with a formidable hook. The shape of the bill has also prompted the Arabs to call it, according to their idiom, the “father of a shoe.” It forms large flocks and frequents dense swamps. The flight is heron-like, and the birds settle on trees. The food consists of any small animals or carrion. The nest is a hole in dry ground, roughly limed with herbage, and from two to twelve chalky white eggs are laid. (A. N.)