The Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)
The Black-necked Stork - Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus
The Black-necked Stork also known as the Jabiru, is the largest wading bird, and only stork that can be found in Australia. Although its name states it is a black necked stork, these birds do in fact have an iridescent purple/green neck with a black bill. The colour of the head appears to be a glossy black with iridescent purple and green appearing when light is reflected off of it. Their legs are long and coral-red in colour and the females are distinguished from males by their yellow iris. Immature birds have brown plumage instead of the black and the white is replaced by a dusky brown. As the Jabiru does not have a voice box, chattering by bill clapping is their means of communication
The height of the birds varies between 1.3m - 1.5m and the wingspan can reach up to 2.5m from tip to tip.
The Black-necked stork is found mainly on the coast or near coastal areas of Northern and Eastern Australia.
The Black-necked Stork lives in wetlands and floodplains of Top End billabongs and river systems. Occasionally they stray to drier country in search of food.
The Black-necked Stork feeds on fish, small crustaceans and amphibians. Most prey is caught by the bird jabbing and seizing it with its large bill. Some food is caught by lunging forward with a large stride or by leaping into the air.
Black-necked storks bond for several years or even perhaps for life and as they are very secretive birds they nest in isolated pairs. There is little courtship between the pair, with the exception of some bowing and the clapping of bills. A large scaffold of sticks and vegetation is used to create their nests in tall trees near waterways. Both sexes incubate the eggs and once born care for the young. Breeding season is from March to May and usually have a clutch of 2 to 4 eggs.
Yellow Water, Kakadu National Park, is one of my favourite areas to visit. It is an extraordinary resource for observing the habits of local wildlife. Many days over a period of 18 months, from sunrise to sunset, were spent in my 12 foot tinnie, waiting and watching. I finally managed to get close enough to watch this magnificent Jabiru fishing. After a few hours of hunting, this Jabiru was successful, but more importantly for me - he had positioned himself so that the light caught the iridescent colours in his neck, and the silvery shine of his prey.