Although one of the most abundant of the Asian storks, this species is classified as Near Threatened because it is thought to be undergoing a moderately rapid population decline owing primarily to hunting, wetland drainage and pollution.
Distribution and populationMycteria leucocephala
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
occurs in Pakistan
(scarce; mainly confined to the Indus delta region), Nepal
(rare in terai; mainly a summer visitor), India
(widespread and locally common resident), Bangladesh
(former resident, now a straggler to coastal regions), Sri Lanka
(locally abundant, particularly in the dry zone), China
(previously a common summer visitor in south, probably breeding, but now rare and possibly extinct), Myanmar
(former resident in central region and visitor throughout; current status unknown but clearly rare), Thailand
(previously common breeder in south, now on verge of extinction, small numbers recorded sporadically elsewhere), Laos
(previously widespread, now rare), Vietnam
(formerly widespread resident, now a rare non-breeding visitor), Cambodia
(local resident, 4-5,000 pairs breeding at Prek Toal, Tonle Sap Lake) and Peninsular Malaysia (previously regular, now a vagrant). There are an estimated 15,000 individuals in South Asia and fewer than 10,000 in South-East Asia (Perennou et al.
1994), with populations declining throughout. Although it is considered one of the most numerous and secure of Asian storks, this is more a reflection of the rarity and endangerment of most storks in the region, than the security of this species. Population justification
Perennou et al.
(1994) estimated populations of 15,000 individuals in south Asia, and fewer than 10,000 individuals in South-East Asia, thus there are estimated to be a total of 15,000-25,000 individuals in total, roughly equivalent to 10,000-17,000 mature individuals.Trend justification
There are no data on population trends; however, the species is suspected to be declining at a moderately rapid rate, owing to hunting, drainage and pollution.Ecology
It frequents freshwater marshes, lakes and reservoirs, flooded fields, rice paddies, freshwater swamp forest, river banks, intertidal mudflats and saltpans. Threats
The increasing impacts of habitat loss, disturbance, pollution, wetland drainage and the hunting of adults and collection of eggs and nestlings from colonies are cause for concern. Hybridisation between free-flying Painted Storks and Milky Storks M. cinerea
at Singapore Zoo has apparently produced reproductively viable offspring, raising the question of whether these hybrids could pose a threat if they crossed over into mainland South-East Asia (Yong D. L. in litt
. 2011), or if the rare interbreeding of these species observed in the wild (J. C. Eames in litt
. 2011) could also be a threat.Conservation Actions Underway
It occurs in a number of protected areas. Since 2004 the colony at Prek Toal, Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia, has been successfully protected and monitored by MoE staff who work with former egg collectors. Data derived from tree-top platform based counts indicate that the population has grown from 1,000 to 2,300 nests from 2004 to 2011. However, overflights of the colony suggest that only 50% is visible from platforms, so there are now likely to be 4-5,000 nesting pairs (S. Mahood in litt
. 2012). Conservation Actions Proposed
Regularly monitor known colonies throughout the species range. Ensure complete and permanent protection of all breeding congregations. Encourage farming systems that create and not destroy suitable foraging habitat. Mitigate against development schemes which destroy sites where it is found. Conduct awareness campaigns involving local residents to engender pride in the species and other large waterbirds and prevent hunting.
BirdLife International. 2001. Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.
Perennou, C. P.; Mundkur, T.; Scott, D. A. 1994. The Asian Waterfowl Census 1987-1991: distribution and status of Asian waterfowl. IWRB and AWB, Slimbridge and Kuala Lumpur.
Further web sources of information
Detailed species accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species
Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection
Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Mahood, S., Pilgrim, J., Taylor, J., Allinson, T
vanZalinge, R., Mahood, S.
IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Mycteria leucocephala. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 30/04/2016.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 30/04/2016.
This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000)
Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004)
Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.
To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife
To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.
Additional resources for this species