Birds,  Fauna,  Nature

The Black-necked Stork: A near-threatened species

Only recently there was a hue and cry in the papers about a black-necked stork which was spotted with a ring around its beak in a wetland outside Delhi. Black-necked storks are large birds, which are classified as ‘near-threatened’ in the IUCN Red list.

They are wading birds which live in wetland habitats. Paddy fields are common areas where they are seen foraging for prey.  The black-necked stork is a carnivore. They feed on other water birds such as little grebes, pheasant-tailed jacanas and coots as well as on fish, frogs, crabs and molluscs. In the Gangetic areas they are known to prey on eggs and hatchlings of turtles.

Black-necked stork (female), Kaziranga, 5 Nov 2017

These tall long-necked birds are seen all across the Indian subcontinent. The iridescent bluish-black head is distinctive in adults, as is the white and black plumage. You can distinguish between the sexes by the colour of their irises. Adult females have a yellow iris, while the males have brown irises.  Black-necked storks are largely non-social and are usually seen as single birds, pairs and sometimes in family groups. 

Black-necked stork (female), Kaziranga, 5 Nov 2017

The Mir Shikars, traditional bird hunters of Bihar, had a ritual practice that required a young man to capture a black-necked stork or a “Loha Sarang” alive before he could marry. The baraat or wedding procession would locate a bird and the bridegroom-to-be would try to catch the bird with a limed stick. However these cornered birds can be ferocious adversaries. This ritual was stopped in the 1920s after a young man was killed in the process after being gored by a stork.

Young birds have been known to be taken from the nest for meat in Assam. But John Gould noted that the meat of the bird “… has a fishy flavour, too over-powerful to admit of its being eaten by any one but a hungry explorer.

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