Adjutant Stork

The Adjutant Stork, how it got its name, its diet, its habitat. This bird is protected by law in some countries and are another endangered species. There are three species of this stork who produce the beautiful marabou feather.

Taxonomic Hierarchy
Adjutant Stork
Kingdom Animalia – Animal, animals
Phylum Chordata – chordates
Subphylum Vertebrata – vertebrates
Class Aves – Birds
Order Ciconiiformes – Storks, cigognes
Family Ciconiidae Sundevall, 1836 – Storks
Genus Leptoptilos Lesson, 1831
Direct Children:
Species Leptoptilos crumeniferus (Lesson, 1831) – Marabou Stork
Species Leptoptilos dubius (Gmelin, 1789) – Greater Adjutant
Species Leptoptilos javanicus (Horsfield, 1821) – Lesser Adjutant
Leptoptilos, Lesson, 1831, Taxonomic Serial No.: 174918

The Adjutant is named so, because of its similarity with the military Adjutant, an assistant who stands at attention while superiors file in. The Adjutant will stand motionless for hours at a time in its tropical home. It is a native East Indian Stork standing approximately 5 ft high, the tallest 6 or 7 ft in height. The Adjutant Stork is found in India and Southeastern Asia and protected by law in some countries. Primarily white with slate colored wings and back and flesh colored neck and head with some hair like feathers. The Adjutant is the largest of the storks, with a naked pouch on the chest that can inflate making the appearance of a pink balloon with black spots. The pouch is believed to serve as an air resorvoir in special circumstances.

The Adjutant feeds off carrion and offal, its digestive system makes it possible to swallow and digest large bones. The Adjutant is a scavenger and eats smaller noxious animals like snakes. In Oriental cities the Adjutant was often present on the street scavenging meals, though due to improvement in sanitation, these storks have became rare.

Of the genus Leptoptilus, common in tropical Asia and Africa. The two asiatic species, L. dubius and a smaller species is found in the East Indies (L. javanicus). Another closely related species, the marabou, L. crumeniferus, inhabits Africa. These three species produce the beautiful marabou feathers sold and used in crafts.

The Adjutant cares for its young in a large nest on trees or cliffs made of sticks.

Adjutant Stork

References and Further Reading

  • Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedia, Volume 14, 1951
  • Wild Birds, 1955 Maxton Publishers. Dean Amadon, Ph.D, Curator of Birds, The American Museum of Natural History
  • Colliers Encyclopedia, Volume 1, 1960

  • Nesting Ecology of the Greater Adjutant Stork in Assam, India
    The nesting ecology of the Greater Adjutant Stork (Leptoptilos dubius), the rarest stork in the world, was studied in the Brahmaputra Valley, Assam, India during 1994-97. [...] About 90% of nests were built on the top of the canopy. Storks preferred to nest in compact colonies on large, widely branched trees with thin foliage cover and nearby food sources.
  • Great Information on Storks from the San Diego Zoo
    The stately stork
    Storks have a dignified appearance, standing graceful and tall or marching deliberately on slender legs. Nature has a good purpose for those long legs, of course: they allow the stork to take long strides and wade into deep water or tall grasses and reeds in search of food. A long neck allows them to stretch out to capture their prey.

    In the scavenger species, this is thought to prevent feathers from getting stuck together with blood or mud, but the bare places are also used to impress, becoming more brightly colored during breeding season. Some storks also use their feathers in displays, like the woolly-necked stork Ciconia episcopus that has feathers to puff out around its throat like a ruffed collar.

  • Rapid Action to Protect Breeding Grounds of Greater Adjutant Storks in Guwahati

    In a unique barter, a group of veterinarians in Guwahati in the north eastern state of Assam offered their services of taking care of the livestock of villagers in return for villagers’ offering protection to the tall trees that are perfect breeding grounds of the greater adjutant stork.

  • Concerned over the rapid decline in breeding grounds of greater adjutant storks in the city, an initiative was taken by Moloy Baruah, in conjunction with Wildlife Trust of India to strike this deal with the villagers of Suktaguri in North Guwahati. Suktaguri has been identified as the ideal breeding place of greater adjutant storks. However unabated felling of trees is posing a threat to the avian species, whose population in 2003 was around 280. Casualties also rise because of electrocution and poaching.
    Few breeding pairs and small populations still survive in Assam particularly in the Brahmaputra valley. Guwahati city has largest concentration of the storks among all places in the state. There are around 150 to 175 storks around the city depending upon the garbage where they are chiefly scavengers. There are few nesting places around the city. Care needs to be taken because the total population in Assam alone is around 800 with a slightly declining trend.
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