Balaeniceps Skull Replica 11 inches. Shoebill Skull is museum quality polyurethane cast. Made in USA. 2-part skull (separate cranium and jaw).
The Balaeniceps or Shoebill is a tall bird, with a typical height range of 43 to 55 in. and some specimens reaching as much as 60 in.
Length from tail to beak can range from 39 to 55 in. and wingspan is 7 ft 7 in to 8 ft 6 in. Weight has reportedly ranged from 8.8 to 15.4 lb.
The signature feature of the Balaeniceps or Shoebill species is its huge, bulbous bill, which is straw-colored with erratic greyish markings.
The solitary nature of shoebills extends to their breeding habits. Nests typically occur at less than three nests per square kilometre, unlike herons, cormorants, pelicans and storks which predominantly nest in colonies.
The breeding pair of Balaeniceps or Shoebills vigorously defends a territory of 0.77 to 1.54 sq mi. from conspecifics. In the extreme north and south of the species’ range, nesting starts right after the rains end.
In more central regions of the range, it may nest near the end of the wet season in order for the eggs to hatch around the beginning of the following wet season.
Both parents engage in building the nest on a floating platform after clearing out an area of approximately 9.8 ft. across. The large, flattish nesting platform is often partially submerged in water and can be as much as 9.8 ft deep.
The nest itself is about 3.3 to 5.6 ft. wide. Both the nest and platform are made of aquatic vegetation. From one to three white eggs are laid. These eggs measure 3.1 to 3.5 in. high by 2.2 to 2.4 in. and weigh around 5.8 oz.
Incubation lasts for approximately 30 days. Both parents actively brood, shade, guard and feed the nestling, though the females are perhaps slightly more attentive.
Balaeniceps or Shoebills use their mandibles to cool their eggs with water during days with high temperatures around 30–33°C. They fill their mandible once, swallow the water, and fill another mandible full of water before proceeding back to their nest where they pour out the water and regurgitate the previously swallowed water onto both the nest and eggs.
Food items are regurgitated whole from the gullet straight into the bill of the young.
Shoebills rarely raise more than one chick but will hatch more. The younger chicks usually die and are intended as “back-ups” in case the eldest chick dies or is weak.
Fledging is reached at around 105 days and the young birds can fly well by 112 days. However, they are still fed for possibly a month or more after this. It will take the young shoebills three years before they become fully sexually mature.
Balaeniceps or Shoebills are elusive when nesting, so cameras must be placed to observe them from afar to collect behavioral data. There is an advantage for birds that are early breeders, as the chicks are tended for a longer period.