Faces only a mother could love

There is another “big five” among African animals–the five ugliest animals: hyena, vulture (which one?), wildebeest, warthog, and Maribou stork.  I’m not sure what constitutes “ugly” status, but it might have more to do with behavior than actual looks.  Scavenging for a living is apparently not quite as glamorous as true carnivory.  However, what would the landscape look like with a lot of partially eaten carcasses just lying around, smelling bad?  Scavengers perform a vital service!

Hooded and white-backed vultures on an elephant carcass

Bald-headed birds seem less beautiful than fully feathered ones, but if you are going to stick your head inside a bloody carcass, then bald is practical and easy to clean. Hooded and white-backed vultures clean meat off an elephant skull, along with Pied Crows (also scavengers).

Maribou storks feeding on a Cape buffalo carcass

Maribou storks scavenge what little flesh remains on a Cape buffalo carcass.

Maribou stork

There is nothing beautiful about the Maribou stork’s face. The bill seems disproportionately big, and those red puffy areas on its head make it look diseased.

Spotted hyena from kids.britannica.com

We didn’t see any hyenas, although they do roam the grasslands of Southern Africa. Is it their odd stance (sloping shoulders), slobbery faces, vicious behavior, or scavenging habit that makes them part of the all-ugly team? (Photo from kids.britannica.com)

Scavenging alone is not enough to qualify for the ugly five, because a couple of vegetarians made the team.

Wildebeest in Kruger national park, South Africa

Just minding their own business, a herd of wildebeest cruise the grassland in search of something nutritious to eat. They are really just lion bait.

Wildebeest in Kruger national park, South Africa

Other antelope have short horns, or manes, or hair running down their necks to their chest, but not such long noses or beards, like this Blue Gnu.

Greater Kudu males

Wildebeest need to take a lesson from the stately elegance of Kudu males.  Short nose, no beard, better posture!

Warthog and young

And lastly, the ungainly warthog, whose ropey tail and oversized head make it a comical-looking creature. Mother warthog leads her offspring away by waving her tail like a flag for them to follow.

Warthog male

What does an animal need a huge head like this for?

6 thoughts on “Faces only a mother could love

  1. I like your photo of the Maribou stork, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one before. Good exposure and composition. I also like it because it kind of looks like (without the red and black splotches) someone I used to work with.

  2. Cool shots, Sue. Ugliness, like beauty, is surely in the eyes of the beholder. When I see your warthog, I can’t help but think of Pumbaa from the Lion King. Leave it to Disney Pictures to make a comic-heroic figure out of one of your Ugly 5.

    • And you would love the way warthogs kneel to eat. Their necks are too short for them to bend to graze, so they hunch down on bended front legs to reach the grass.

  3. These are great images! Your Maribou Stork makes me think about how people often say our Wood Storks have ugly heads….but I find them so endearing! In fact, I think another blogger once told me that they are from entirely different families.

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