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Home >> Species Guide >> Storks,Spoonbill,Flamingos And Ibises >> Painted Stork

  Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala


Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala copyright Rajneesh Suvarna; 2006; Okhla Bird Park, Delhi


Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala copyright Satyendra Sharma; 26 Dec, 2005; KGNP, Bharatpur, India

    Mystery Bird September 2004  

Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala copyright Lovina B

  Although there is nothing visible to compare the bird to in this photograph, its proportions suggest a large bird. The head and neck are hidden but the legs are long and strong. Its wings show black and dusky white patterning and the tail is black. It shouldn’t be too difficult to identify this as one of the storks and the rather dusky looking plumage suggests an juvenile. The upper wing patterning narrows it down to Painted Stork. Note that Openbills are very dusky white in adult plumage most of the year and only acquire their clean black and white plumage briefly during the summer breeding season. Identifying juvenile storks is
  important as it enables estimates of breeding success to be made. Often it is not possible to count nests in a crowded colony accurately and the number of associated non-breeding adults makes it difficult to be certain of breeding pairs. But counting juveniles just out of the nest gives us useful breeding data.  
Fortunately young Painted Storks are readily separable from the adults and they also spend several weeks in and around the nesting colony after they have left their nests. The plumage is a dark shadow of the adults. The white body is dingy and the neck and head dusky brown and feathered. The upper wing pattern is distinctive with brownish forewings, a distinct white covert bar and blackish flight feather. All the field guides tell us the under wing coverts are dark and the underside of the flight feathers is blackish. This may be the pattern at some stage in the progress to maturity but this bird (photographed at the nesting colony at Delhi Zoo) clearly shows that most of the underside of the flight feathers is whitish. The black looking inner secondary feathers is I think the effect of shadow in this photograph. If you look carefully at the upper side of the outer primaries they also have some whitish in them. Personally I have never noticed this feature on juvenile birds and this breeding season will perhaps give us all an opportunity to see if whitish undersides to the flight feathers is standard in all individuals and for how long it lasts.

The Painted Stork is a threatened species globally and it is important to monitor their breeding success where they breed. They breed after other colonial water birds, starting in September and continuing into the New Year. December is the best month for observing and counting juveniles as they spend much time loafing about in the huge nests or on the ground nearby. They also fly round on the thermals developing their flying skills. We are lucky in having a large accessible colony in Delhi Zoo (up to 300 pairs estimated) while the main island in Sultanpur has had up to 150 pairs in recent years, though 50 pairs is more usual there. Bharatpur has traditionally had the largest colony in the world with up to

Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala copyright Vijay Cavale

  3000 pairs. However as we know from recent reports the lack of water there (as this season) can thwart most of their breeding attempts. It is important that all colonies are reported and if possible monitored, especially in years when post-monsoon water levels are low.  

Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala copyright N Shiva Kumar


Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala
copyright Peter Phillips; 2004


Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala
copyright Vijay Cavale 2002


Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala copyright Sumit Sen


Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala
copyright R Vijaykumar Thondaman & Clement Francis

  delhibird would like to thank all the photographers for allowing us to use their photographs to illustrate this article.

Bikram Grewal & Bill Harvey