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Looking at you

Looking at you
Photo Information
Copyright: Willem Botha (whjb) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 51 W: 26 N: 172] (683)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2006-09-10
Categories: Birds
Camera: Canon EOS 350D, Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 DG Macro, 58mm UV
Exposure: f/7.1, 1/800 seconds
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Theme(s): Birds of South Africa 1, !"The eyes have it..." [view contributor(s)]
Date Submitted: 2006-09-22 15:44
Viewed: 5487
Favorites: 3 [view]
Points: 48
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
Secretary Bird - Sagittarius serpentarius
The Secretary Bird is only found in Africa south of the Sahara desert. Its preferred habitat is open grass plains and steppes, and savannah and bushveld when it is not too dense.

The staple diet of the Secretary Bird is a combination of small ground mammals and large insects, some young birds, lizards, snakes and occasionally larger creatures up to the size of a young hare.

Its equipment for killing differs from all other birds of prey in that its kills by stamping with its long, powerful legs, engaging the short rear talon with the base of the skull of its prey with extreme force and absolute accuracy.

This unusual bird is unique, and is grouped in a family by itself. There is only the one species. The scientific name Sagittarius serpentarius can be taken to mean 'The Archer of Snakes'. This relates to the hunting technique of these birds.It is an accomplished flier.

Their long legs allow these birds to hunt for prey in long grass. They can run very fast. They roost and nest in trees, and will take to the wing if danger is present. The bright orange or yellow eye patches seen on these birds are believed by some to be a distraction to venomous snakes.

The cresting is more marked than on any other bird of prey, and it is the combination of what look like quills behind the ears and knee-breeches which earned its name, by allusion to the legal secretaries of the 19th century.

A couple of hours after dawn, it drops to the ground, where it walks twenty miles or more each day through the grassland, at an average speed of around 3mph (1.3 m/s), sometimes resting in the shade of a tree during the hottest hours.

Prey is usually chased along the ground and, once caught, repeatedly thumped in the head by the short, sharp rear talon. When dispatching prey, the bird will stand slightly back, spread both wings, erect the crest of feathers at the back of the head and fire away with both talons. Two very long tail feathers will also drop down. The spread wings and feathers act as a false target for venomous creatures, particularly snakes. The two tail feathers are designed to look like a third leg. Because feathers have hollow quills, the bird will not be poisoned if it is bitten in the feathers.

Two or three eggs are laid in the tree-top nest. These are incubated by the female for about 45 days. The young leave the nest after 65-80 days.

Source: http://www.hawk-conservancy.org/priors/secretry.shtml

Hil, shal, Merlin, coasties, Matt-Bird, elefantino, manyee, jmp, Scott, Argus, nardophoto, cedryk, sunkirana, Shoot_Score, tinman has marked this note useful
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Critiques [Translate]

  • Great 
  • arcee (1)
  • [2006-09-22 15:51]

What a fantastic shot. POV is excellent, and the fine details of the feathers are really stunning. It's a very 'bird like' pose (the angle of the head-tilt). Really striking - thank you so much for sharing.

  • Great 
  • Hil Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 696 W: 13 N: 1407] (5035)
  • [2006-09-22 15:56]

Hi Willem

What a stunning shot, the pose and pov are superb, I like the curious expression on the birds face, the detail is clean and sharp and the colours are perfect, what a great lookinf bird, I love the eye-lashes.

TFS Hilary :o)

  • Great 
  • Glint Silver Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 36 W: 0 N: 51] (315)
  • [2006-09-22 16:06]

Great comical shot. Love the composition and the sharpness gives us great detail.

Bonsoir Willem,

Alors lui .... il a une bouille pas possible !!!
Qualité d'image superbe...
Merci de nous avoir montrer ça ;)

  • Great 
  • hester Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1515 W: 18 N: 3165] (11638)
  • [2006-09-22 16:38]

Great expression! lovely POV and excellent details and colours.



  • Great 
  • shal Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 256 W: 64 N: 481] (2140)
  • [2006-09-22 16:39]

Hi Willem,
great shot!
Excellent composition and detail,
the bird seems to be challenging you :P
great capture
Vishal Sabharwal

  • Great 
  • Merlin Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 445 W: 267 N: 455] (1713)
  • [2006-09-22 17:25]

POV, exposure, focus, DOF all perfect and very original - the last thing a lot of African snakes have seen! Outstanding image and thanks for posting it.
Regards, Nigel.

Hi Willem

Love this shot. Perfect details, well composed with an interesting POV. Great quality too. TFS.

  • Great 
  • jossim Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1538 W: 5 N: 2240] (12636)
  • [2006-09-22 19:15]

Bonjour Willem!

Bravo pour ce portrait.

Hello Willem,
What an interesting and expressive looking bird. The photo is really great, nice job,

  • Great 
  • manyee Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3089 W: 230 N: 6774] (23770)
  • [2006-09-23 2:44]

What a fantastic POV of this secretary bird, Willem.
It is such an interesting looking bird. Great details and exposure. TFS. : )

  • Great 
  • jmp Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1659 W: 95 N: 2273] (8415)
  • [2006-09-23 3:03]

Hi Willem,
Very good portrait. Excellent colors, details, pose, pov and bg.
TFS, José M.

Wonderful photo, brilliant composition and POV! TFS - Xplorator Radu

Hello, I've always seen this kind of birds from a far distance. They always run or fly away quickly if i try to go closer.
Did you take this shot in the wild or not?

About the pic, I love it !!
It's a great portrait really detailed and colorfull.
Sharp and well composed.
Also usefull notes.


  • Great 
  • Scott Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 225 W: 0 N: 356] (1752)
  • [2006-09-23 4:37]


What a fine capture. Sharp focus. It has an expression. Makes me wonder what it is thinking.


  • Great 
  • Argus Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5038 W: 260 N: 15594] (50626)
  • [2006-09-23 11:40]

Hi Willem,
This is a fantastic clode-up of the Secretary Bird, sharp and well composed. Did you really get this shot in the Wild? If, so amazing!
TFS, regards, Ivan

This bird is so beautiful
Excellent capture,
Superb composition, crystal clear detail and colours.
Regards, Krzysztof.

  • Great 
  • badar Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 106 W: 0 N: 160] (785)
  • [2006-11-21 11:39]

Hi Willem,
The details are stunning & the composition lovely.It says look at me.
Badruddin Ali

  • Great 
  • cedryk Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 967 W: 50 N: 1722] (5270)
  • [2006-12-06 19:48]

Hello Willem,
Amazing portrait of this unusual bird. I like the feather details. The bird looks as if was going to hammer your lens :-) Hope it didn't end that way.
Excellent, very informative note!
Best greetings,

Hi Willem,

I find that you chosen the PERFECT DOF here. The colours and POV are spot on.

Good work here,

Regards, Kiran

Excellent shot.
All is good: pose, details (even in the light tones), composition colors.
Eye and bill perfectly in focus. Hind feathers slightly defocus and blurred background: a masterpiece.

Hierdie foto baie pragtig! Mooi bly mooi Willem!

I never knew that birds have eyelashes like that!
Fantastic! One for the Theme department! Dankie, J.

Beautiful!!! Nice composition, colors and clarity. The bird appears to be posing for you.

Congratulations, nice colors, sharp details just superb
Kind regards

amazing face, TFS Ori

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