Missing: two 4-foot tall birds from the NC Zoo

The NC Zoo is searching for two secretary birds that look similar to the one pictured here.
The NC Zoo is searching for two secretary birds that look similar to the one pictured here. The Kansas City Star

Two African “Secretary Birds” are missing from the North Carolina Zoo and zoo staff need your help to find them.

The birds left their behind-the-scenes habitat at the zoo Friday morning through an exit that was not tightly secured and had been blown open by gusty winds that topped 30 mph, according to zoo spokesman Gary Buchanan.

The birds have been spotted around the area each day since they escaped and zoo staff has been trying to entice them with food to return to their habitat rather than risk injuring them by catching them another way, Buchanan said. But they hadn’t come home as of Sunday at noon.

Zoo officials stressed that the large birds are not a danger to the public, pets or farm animals. Secretary birds will avoid people and feed on snakes and frogs, Buchanan said.

The zoo is asking for the public’s help in finding the two birds and has set up a hotline to call with sightings: 336-879-7610. If the birds are spotted, zoo officials ask the public not to approach the birds, but to call the hotline to report any details.

Secretary birds are largely terrestrial birds of prey found in sub-Saharan Africa. The long-legged birds can grow to be more than four feet tall and have eagle-like bodies and crane-like legs.

Secretary birds usually have bright orange markings around their eyes, gray and white feathers on their head, neck chest and upper wings and black feathers on the tips of their wings and legs. Secretary birds also have a series of black quill-like feathers in a crest on the back of their heads that fan out when they encounter prey.

While they spend most of their time on the ground, hunting on foot, Secretary birds can fly. They hunt for snakes, rodents, amphibians and large insects on foot. Secretary birds are considered a vulnerable species.

Abbie Bennett: 919-836-5768; @AbbieRBennett