How to Greet a ShoebillFebruary 27, 2017
Have you ever bowed to a bird? And then had it bow back? Probably not. But the Journeys Discovering Africa team in Uganda sure have!
On a trip to the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre in Entebbe, the Journeys Discovering Africa Uganda team was treated to a very special encounter with one of Africa’s most fascinating birds, the Shoebill.
The centre was set up in an effort to educate local Ugandans, as well as international visitors, about the importance of wildlife conservation. It also serves as a place to rehabilitate animals that have been rescued from animal trafficking or poachers. One of the highlights of the day was when the team was introduced to the resident Shoebill.
Anee-Marie Weedan shared a little more about the surreal experience:
“Before we entered the Shoebill enclosure, Jimmy, our guide for the day and the Head of Animal Rescue at UWEC, briefed us on the correct etiquette for greeting this prehistoric looking bird.
“When the Shoebill approaches you, take a deep bow, shaking your head from side to side,” he said, demonstrating the maneuver like a man from Mumbai wobbling his head to say yes in the middle of a complicated yoga move.
“And then you make a gentle noise like this,” he added, now speaking with his head upside down, making a soft, low noise that was somewhere between a whinny and a trumpet.
“If you follow this etiquette,” said Jimmy brightly, returning to an upright position,“Mr Shoebill will return your greeting.”
At this point we stared at each other in disbelief – was this for real or was it simply a giant prank played on all tour companies that visit the Shoebill? Slightly sceptical, we entered the bird’s enclosure and approached. When we were a meter or two away this giant bird suddenly looked very imposing – it’s deadpan grey eyes staring us down with its razor-sharp beak looking worryingly close. Suddenly Jimmy’s instructions did not seem so ridiculous, as we all bowed deeply, with all the respect we could muster.
And to our utter disbelief, the Shoebill bowed right back at us. This avian exchange gave us so much joy, that like a child learning a new trick, we immediately repeated it. Several times.
As you can see from the photos accompanying this post, the sheer delight at our bowing being reciprocated meant we rapidly lost any sense of self-consciousness (or, some may argue, dignity). It was a most surreal sight – our small group of tourism experts and a giant five-foot bird, taking turns bowing to each other like over-enthusiastic courtiers.”
*Not to be tried in the wild!
Blog originally published on Safarious: https://www.safarious.com/en/posts/6546-how-to-greet-a-shoebill-or-birding-etiquette-for-beginners
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