Environmentally cautious Kenyan bird is fishermen’s best friend

Hammerhead picks up everything from twigs, plastics, papers, plant matter to make its nest

Andrew Wasike   | 20.11.2021
Environmentally cautious Kenyan bird is fishermen’s best friend File Photo


At Karagita Beach in Lake Naivasha, fishermen have come in with a new catch and are packing the fish into crates while others are preparing nets to venture into the lake.

Near the lake, one could see fishing boats bobbing on light waves in a sort of chaotic dance when a beautiful bird with huge eyes and uniform pale-brown feathers alights upon a fisherman’s net and starts looking for fish and frogs stuck in nets.

Ambrose Ndima is close to the bird and he is joined by five others but the bird does not appear to be afraid.

“The birds are like this, they don’t fear us fishermen because we believe them to bring good luck as they never disturb us. This is a bird that is totally not afraid of man because despite it being a wild animal we coexist and live in harmony,” Ndima said, referring to hammerhead birds that are always by their side.

The 36-year-old fisherman who is a father of two, told Anadolu Agency that the bird is very environmentally cautious.

“This bird helps us by cleaning the beach. It will pick up everything from twigs, cloth, old nets, plastics, papers and plant matter to make its nest. This way, it also cleans up the beach,” Ndima said while pointing at a tree where a huge nest was situated.

On the lake’s shore, one can see the birds picking up pieces of cloth and old nets and flying up to its nest before coming back for more trash that is on the lake.

“That is its nest. It is very durable and very big. The many wild ducks that you see around us also use the nests for breeding. The hammerhead birds create so many nests per season and they abandon their old ones and make new ones,” said Ndima.

Samuel Muthiga, another fisherman, said: “It is a peaceful bird that never bothers anyone. It will not go near the market and eat grains, fruits or vegetables being sold there. It also brings beauty and makes us fishermen feel at peace. They are our best friends here.”

The hammerhead bird is also called hammerkop and anvil head. It received its name from the shape of its head that resembles a hammer. It has a crest on its back that looks like the claw of a hammer and its beak resembles the face of a hammer.

Its neck also joins its head which is shielded by feathers but resembles the handle of a hammer.

“We have so many local names for the bird but its English name is hammerhead. There are also myths and stories about them depending on your tribe. They mainly eat small fish, snails, insects and frogs. We love them not only because of the environmental work they do but also because they are just our friends,” said Muthiga.​​​​​​​

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