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Two African hamerkops hatched at Maryland Zoo

Go ahead, call her children "hammer-heads." Mom won't mind.

Two young female hamerkops, African wading birds with a flat crest atop their heads that resembles a hammer, were hatched last month at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore and should soon be ready to take flight.

"They are now fledging and are preparing to leave the nest," said Mike McClure, the zoo's general curator. The two chicks were first seen inside the hamerkops' huge nest in the zoo's African aviary Aug. 18, and since then have been cared for and fed — a chore mom and dad hamerkops share — by the zoo's breeding pair, 10-year-old Edith and 12-year-old Archie.

Hamerkops — the name comes from the Afrikaans word for "hammer-head" — build the largest nest of any African bird, using thousands of twigs and other items. The nest, which is built by both parents working together and is accessible only through a small, narrow entrance hole, is clearly visible inside the aviary, zoo officials said.

The chicks should be ready to start flying after about 50 days, McClure said — meaning they should be taking to the air around Oct. 1.

Hamerkops are brown, and are found widely throughout sub-Saharan Africa, wherever water is accessible.

This is the third successful clutch of chicks for Edith and Archie. At last report, mom, dad and both young hammer-heads — er, hamerkops — are doing fine.

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