Overall, this species has undergone a moderately rapid population reduction, which is projected to continue, and it has a moderately small population. It is therefore classed as Near Threatened.
Christidis, L.; Boles, W. E. 2008. Systematics and taxonomy of Australian birds. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
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.
Distribution and populationEphippiorhynchus asiaticus
129-150 cm. A very large and characteristic stork. Adults have bright red legs, white body, extensive black in the wings and tail and notably a glossy iridescent black head and neck with big black bill. Genus Ephippiorhynchus unique among storks in showing sexual dimorphism in colouration: iris dark brown in male and yellow in female. Immature mostly dull brown. Similar spp. Unmistakeable. No similar spp. within the range.
occurs in South Asia, South-East Asia and Oceania. In South Asia it is found in Pakistan
(previously frequent in lower Sind, breeding in the Indus delta until the 1970s, now a straggler), Nepal
(rare resident and winter visitor to the terai
(a widespread resident, but now generally rare and local, and may now be absent in many areas in the south [G. Maheswaran in litt.
(likely as a non-breeder), Bangladesh
(former resident, now a vagrant), and Sri Lanka
(fewer than 50 mature individuals resident, principally in the dry lowlands). In South-East Asia it occurs in Myanmar
(formerly a widespread resident, current status unclear but certainly scarce), Thailand
(formerly quite widespread, now a rare resident in the peninsula, almost extinct), Laos
(previously a widespread non-breeding visitor, probably breeding in the south, but now extremely rare), Cambodia
(previously fairly common; regular recent records, with small numbers breeding), and Indonesia
(apparently once present in the Sundaic region, but now extinct there; population >650 in south Papua, formerly Irian Jaya). The species was thought to be extinct in Vietnam
, with no records since 1987, but in 2003, two individuals were recorded during a survey of Yok Don National Park (Anon. 2003). In Oceania, subspecies E. a. australis
it is found in Papua New Guinea
(very local, but occasionally not uncommon) and Australia
(relatively large population in the north). The combined South and South-East Asia populations are thought to number fewer than 1,000 individuals (K.S.G. Sundar in litt.
2006). While it is in decline in South Asia, in South-East Asia it has dwindled to the brink of extinction. However, a population of c.29 pairs studied in Uttar Pradesh (India) had high productivity and low mortality and has been judged to be at least stable, if not a source for neighbouring populations (Sundar 2003). The districts of south-western Uttar Pradesh are the species's stronghold in India (K.S.G. Sundar in litt.
2007). Between 1996 and 2003, the species was judged to be in decline at 32 (54%) of the 59 sites in India where it was recorded (Maheswaran et al.
2004). It is probably stable in south Papua and Australia, although confirmation of the trend in south Papua is required. A recent estimate places the Australian population at up to 20,000 breeding individuals and secure, although it has been contested that this is unduly optimistic and that the figure may not exceed 10,000. These estimates have been used to extrapolate a global total of c.31,000 individuals (Maheswaran et al.
2004). However, owing to the uncertainty surrounding this estimate, a range of 10,000-21,000 mature individuals is preferred as a conservative estimate of the total breeding population. Population justification
There are thought to be 1,000 asiaticus
(G. Sundar in litt.
2002, 2006), plus possibly up to 20,000 breeding australis
(S. Garnett in litt.
2006), giving perhaps up to 21,000 mature individuals and therefore up to c.31,000 individuals in total. In light of the uncertainty surrounding this figure, a conservative range estimate of 15,000-35,000 individuals is preferred.Trend justification
It is known that the Asian population has declined and, whilst the timing of this decline is not known, much of it is likely to have occurred during the last 60 years. Trends in Australia have not been properly evaluated; however, this population appears relatively stable. The overall population is estimated to be declining at a slow to moderate rate. .Ecology
It inhabits freshwater marshes and lakes (del Hoyo et al.
1992, Sharma 2007), pools in open forest and large rivers (Sharma 2007) and flooded grassland (del Hoyo et al.
1992), up to an altitude of 1,200 m (Sharma 2007). It occasionally uses mangroves and coastal habitats (Santiapillai et al.
1997, Maheswaran et al.
2004, Sharma 2007),
such as estuaries and brackish lagoons (Santiapillai et al.
1997). It also frequents artificial habitats such as reservoirs (Maheswaran et al.
2004), sewage ponds and irrigation stores (del Hoyo et al.
1992, Sundar 2004). Although it shows a preference for natural wetlands throughout the year, it uses similar artificial habitats like rice paddies for a short period of time, particularly during and after the monsoon season, when natural wetlands may become too deep for foraging (Sundar 2004). It will also forage in wet or dry wheat fields and flooded fallow fields, the latter especially in summer when the extent of natural wetlands is reduced (Sundar 2004). In Uttar Pradesh, north-central India the species is common in agricultural landscapes, foraging in flooded rice paddies, irrigation canals and roadside ditches (Sundar 2011). It is carnivorous (del Hoyo et al.
1992) and has high food requirements (Rahmani 1987, Maheswaran and Rahmani 2002, Maheswaran 2003b), tending to be largely territorial, being recorded in flocks very occasionally (Sundar et al.
2006), and becoming more aggressive as food is depleted (Maheswaran and Rahmani 2001). It feeds in shallow water up to 0.5m deep (Garnett and Crowley 2000), and takes fish (Garnett and Crowley 2000, Maheswaran and Rahmani 2001, Maheswaran and Rahmani 2002), reptiles and frogs (Garnett and Crowley 2000), some waterfowl (Verma 2003), turtle eggs (Chauhan and Andrews 2006), crabs, molluscs, insects and other arthropods (Ishtiaq et al
. 2010, Sundar 2011). It has been observed using tactile feeding methods most often (Maheswaran and Rahmani 2001, Maheswaran and Rahmani 2002), although visual methods are also used, depending on the habitat and prey-type (Maheswaran and Rahmani 2001). It is a territorial breeder (Rahmani 1987, Santiapillai et al.
1997, Sundar 2004, Maheswaran and Rahmani 2005), and pairs stay together during successive seasons, some even after breeding is over (Sundar 2003, Maheswaran 2003b). Nests are built in old trees (Rahmani 1987). In India, it starts to nest from August onwards (Bhatt 2006), with earlier breeders in northern India timing their egg laying in September and October to coincide with the end of the monsoon season (Maheswaran 2003a). In New South Wales, Australia, eggs are laid from May to August, with fledging occurring between October and January (Sundar et al.
2006). Breeding pairs generally raise one or two chicks and three is not uncommon, although four is rare (Sundar 2003, Sundar et al.
2007). Chicks generally stay in natal territories until the subsequent breeding season, although they stay longer if adult birds do not breed in the subsequent year (Sundar 2003). Threats
It is threatened by a variety of factors across its range, including drainage of wetlands, felling of nest trees, development, encroachment of agriculture or aquaculture, overfishing, overgrazing, hunting and excessive capture for zoos. Consecutive years of drought can cause declines in the population (del Hoyo et al.
Family CICONIIDAE 1992)
. In India, the freshwater wetlands that this species relies upon are under great pressure from expanding human populations (Maheswaran et al.
. The most frequent threat to the species in this country is fishing (Santiapillai et al.
1997, Maheswaran et al.
, which is so intensive in places that even 5-10 cm fishes are taken (Rahmani 1987)
, followed by the affects of sedimentation on wetland quality (Maheswaran et al.
. However, deterioration of foraging habitat through the conversion of wetlands into agricultural fields is also a major threat in India (Rahmani 1987, Maheswaran 2003a, Sundar 2004)
. In the face of wetland reclamation, flooded rice paddies have become important and may be promoting the dispersal of young birds and preventing the fragmentation of sub-populations (Sundar 2004)
. Eggs are taken in at least some parts of India (Maheswaran et al.
. Disturbance during the nesting season is a major threat (Rahmani 1987)
. Deaths due to collision with electricity wires are occasional (Sundar 2005)
, but deaths of younger birds due to wire fences in Australia are more common (K.S.G. Sundar in litt.
. Additional threats in Sri Lanka include possible inbreeding in small populations, pesticide poisoning of wetlands and loss of mangroves to increasing salinity levels (Santiapillai et al.
.In Australia, the species is thought to be threatened by disturbance and habitat loss, but has not been greatly affected by the intensification of land-use in eastern Australia (Garnett and Crowley 2000)
. Sea-level rise is projected to have a negative impact upon coastal habitats. The frequent formation of mostly female-biased trios in Australia may indicate that the sex ratio of the species is skewed (Sundar et al.
. Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I. In Australia the species is listed as rare in Queensland and Endangered in New South Wales. It has been upgraded to Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, giving it full protection. It is a conservation priority in Cambodia. It occurs in a number of protected areas including several national parks in Australia and India. Studies on the distribution and abundance levels of this species are presently ongoing in South-East Asia and India (K.S.G. Sundar in litt.
. An analysis subsequent to these studies is expected to provide improved population estimates. Detailed studies in at least one location have begun in Australia and will also provide improved population information (K.S.G. Sundar in litt.
. Conservation Actions Proposed
Protect remaining habitat, especially in South and South-East Asia. Try to mitigate in advance against the loss of habitat to sea-level rise in Australia. Carry out range-wide surveys to accurately determine the total population size and trends. Prevent birds being captured for trade to collections and zoos in Asia. Control hunting of the species. Study the importance of flooded rice paddies for dispersal and linkage of sub-populations through genetic and telemetry studies (Sundar 2004, K.S.G. Sundar in litt.
. In most areas of the species's range regulate landscape-scale farming practices and development projects to incorporate maintenance and preservation of natural wetlands, and reduce changes in land-use such as conversion to drier crops (Sundar 2004)
. Carry out more research into its breeding biology and behaviour (Maheswaran 2003b)
. Continue to monitor wetlands in northern Cambodia (using photo-traps) to help understand breeding biology and success (K.S.G. Sundar in litt.
Anon. 2003. Endangered species rediscovered in Yok Don National Park, Dak Lak province. The Babbler: BirdLife in Indochina 2(2): 12-13.
Bhatt, K. 2006. Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus nest with four chicks in Marine National Park, Gujarat, India. Indian Birds 2(2): 35.
BirdLife International. 2001. Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.
Chauhan, R.; Andrews, H. 2006. Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus and Sarus Crane Grus antigone depredating eggs of the three-striped roofed turtle Kachuga dhongoka. Forktail 22: 174-175.
del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Garnett, S. T.; Crowley, G. M. 2000. The action plan for Australian birds 2000. Environment Australia, Canberra.
Ishtiaq, F., Javed, S., Coulter, M. C. and Rahmani, A. R. 2010. Resource Partitioning in Three Sympatric Species of Storks in Keoladeo National Park, India. Waterbirds 33(1): 41-49.
Maheswaran, G.; Rahmani, A. R. 2001. Effects of water level changes and wading bird abundance on the foraging behaviour of blacknecked storks Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus in Dudwa National Park, India. Journal of Bioscience 26: 373-382.
Maheswaran, G.; Rahmani, A. R. 2002. Foraging behaviour and feeding success of the black-necked stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus) in Dudwa National Park, Uttar Pradesh, India. Journal of Zoology (London) 258: 189-195.
Maheswaran, G.; Rahmani, A. R. 2005. Breeding behaviour of the Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus in Dudhwa National Park, India. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 102(3): 305-312.
Maheswaran, G.; Rahmani, A. R.; Coulter, M.C. 2004. Recent records of Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus in India. Forktail 20: 112-116.
Rahmani, A. R. 1987. Is the Black-necked Stork threatened? Hornbill: 18-19.
Santiapillai, C.; Dissanayake, S. R. B.; Alagoda, T. S. B. 1997. Observations on the Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus) in the Ruhuna national Park, Sri Lanka. Tigerpaper 24: 7-11.
Sharma, A. 2007. First record of Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus) in Murshidabad District, West Bengal. Newsletter for Birdwatchers 47(1): 11-13.
Sundar, K. S. G. 2003. Notes on the breeding biology of the Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus in Etawah and Mainpuri districts, Uttar Pradesh, India. Forktail 19: 15â€“20.
Sundar, K. S. G. 2005. An instance of mortality and notes on behaviour of black-necked storks Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 102(1): 99-102.
Sundar, K. S. G. 2011. Farmland foods: Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus prey items in an agricultural landscape. Forktail 27: 98-100.
Sundar, K. S. G.; Deomurari, A.; Bhatia, Y.; Narayanan, S. P. 2007. Records of Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus breeding pairs fledging four chicks. Forktail: 161-163.
Sundar, K.S. G. 2004. Group size and habitat use by Black-necked storks Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus in an agriculture-dominated landscape in Uttar Pradesh, India. Bird Conservation International 14: 323-334.
Sundar, K.S. G.; Clancy, G. P.; Shah, N. 2006. Factors affecting formation of flocks of unusual size and composition in Black-necked Storks Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus in Australia and India. Emu 106: 253-258.
Verma, A. 2003. Feeding association of Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) with Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus) in Keoladeo National Park (Bharatpur, India). Aquila 109-110: 47-50.
Further web sources of information
Australian Govt - Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 - Recovery Outline for Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus australis
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., Bird, J., Butchart, S., Garnett, S., Pilgrim, J., Taylor, J., Allinson, T
Christidis, L., Clancy, G., Garnett, S., Maheswaran, G., Sundar, G.
IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 04/09/2015.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2015) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 04/09/2015.
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.
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