Beware the B. Rex

Today we continue our tour through the Royal Ontario Museum with a look at the Balaeniceps rex. Is B. rex a flesh-eating dinosaur?  Absolutely! This B. rex is a modern day bird commonly referred to as the shoebill because of its large, shoe- or clog-like bill.  It feasts on the flesh (and bones!) of fish, frogs, turtles, snakes, baby crocodiles and even other birds, by snatching and crushing them with its powerful beak.  B. rex is considered a dinosaur because our modern day birds descended from dinosaurs.  In fact, paleontologists refer to birds as avian dinosaurs.  Non-avian dinosaurs are the prehistoric, extinct version (think: raptors and T. rexes).

Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex) – Royal Ontario Museum, Photo by cjverb (Aug. 2016)

The goofy looking B. rex definitely gives off a prehistoric vibe.  Standing three and a half feet tall, this spindly-legged bird lives in the swampy regions of central and northern Africa.  A bit of a wallflower, B. rex prefers to keep to itself, except when breeding or when food is in short supply.  B. rex is also a tough love parent.  It lays one to three eggs, but will only nurture and raise one chick.  Any siblings on hand are only there for back up.  In other words, they are left to fend for themselves.  This shoebill sibling rivalry video courtesy of Planet Earth by the BBC depicts B. rex’s ruthless family dynamics.

A softer, kinder B. rex is featured in this video on how to greet a shoebill.  It reminds me of Harry Potter greeting Buckbeak the hippogriff.  If you’d like to learn more about how birds descended from dinosaurs, check out my Nesting with Dinosaurs post.  Enjoy 🙂

T. rex, Photo by Jim Tsorlinis,

Fun Prehistoric B. Rex Fact:  During the Hell Creek Project (1999-2010), paleontologists discovered a very special Tyrannosaurus rex that they named B. rex.  This non-avian, female dinosaur died at the age of 16, approximately 68 million years ago during the late Cretaceous Period.  When paleontologists drilled into prehistoric B. rex’s bones they found blood vessels, osteocytes (bone forming cells), and medullary tissue.  Medullary tissue is also found in our modern day birds (avian dinosaurs).  It stores calcium and prevents calcium loss during egg-laying.  This discovery was yet another link between our modern day birds and the dinosaurs of the past.  If you’d like to learn more about avian and non-avian dinosaurs, check out paleontologist, Jack Horner’s entertaining Ted Talk, Building a Dinosaur from a Chicken (2011).


Royal Ontario Museum

Ted Talk

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