This stork is listed as Vulnerable because its population is suspected to be rapidly declining, as a result of hunting pressure in particular.
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.
Distribution and populationLeptoptilos javanicus
122-129 cm. Very large stork, dark grey-black above, white below, with naked head and neck. Non-breeders have mostly yellowish head and neck skin with vinous-tinged head sides and contrastingly pale forehead. Breeding males show coppery spots on median coverts, narrow whitish edges to lower scapulars, tertials and inner greater coverts and redder head sides. Juvenile is duller and less glossy above, with more down on head and neck. Similar spp. Greater Adjutant L. dubius has more massive bill, paler head sides, pendulous neck-pouch, pale grey greater coverts and tertials.
has an extensive range across South and South-East Asia (BirdLife International 2001). Substantial populations remain only in India
- mostly in Assam, with c.2,000 birds
(Choudhury 2000), West Bengal and Bihar, where 42 nests had breeding confirmed in 2004 (
Mishra et al
. 2004), Indonesia
(c.2,000 in 1993, the majority on Sumatra) and Cambodia
(1,000 individuals or 300 pairs (
T. Clements in litt
. 2006). There are smaller breeding populations in Nepal
, where in 2003 c.50 birds were recorded in Royal Chitwan National Park and the national population was recently estimated at c.300 individuals following surveys in east, central and western Nepal
(Baral 2005, Sharma 2006), Sri Lanka
- where a small breeding colony was recently reported from North Bengal (S. H. Sourav in litt
. 2011), Myanmar
- estimated at c.500 individuals (
Li et al
. 2007), Brunei
. It has been recorded in Bhutan
(Choudhary 2005), but is thought to be extinct in China and in Singapore. Formerly common and widespread, it has declined dramatically across its range and has been extirpated from many areas in recent decades owing to the persistent and unregulated harvesting of eggs and chicks at nesting colonies. However, some populations at least seem to be relatively stable, e.g. numbers in the Matang Mangrove Forest, Malaysia have remained relatively constant for 20 years
(Li et al
. 2006). The current population estimate is 5,000 birds; however, an increase in survey effort across much of the region has revised many national totals upwards. A recent analysis of Cambodian records estimated a national population of c.1,870 pairs (
Bird et al
. 2007); precautionary interpretation of this figure suggests the previous national estimate of 1,000 individuals should be revised upwards considerably to 2,500-4,000 individuals. Therefore, overall the global population may be considerably larger than previous estimates. Population justification
A total population of 5,000 individuals was estimated by Hancock (1993), Choudhury (2000) and, during analysis of all recent records, BirdLife International (2001). However, more extensive survey effort in recent years has led to upward revisions of some national totals: the Cambodian population can now be placed at 2,500-4,000 individuals rather than the previous estimate of c.1,000 individuals. Hence, the global population probably numbers 6,500-8,000 individuals or possibly more, roughly equating to 4,300-5,300 mature individuals.Trend justification
This species's population is suspected to be declining rapidly, in line with increasing levels of felling of colony nest trees, drainage and conversion of wetland feeding areas, agricultural intensification, pesticide use, disturbance and large-scale development in coastal areas, but, most seriously, the persistent and unregulated harvesting of eggs and chicks from colonies.Ecology
Inland, birds inhabit natural and human-modified wetlands, both open and forested. Coastal populations frequent mangroves and intertidal flats. It nests colonially in large trees, and historically on cliffs, often at traditional sites in or adjacent to wetlands. It utilises small wetlands within Asian dry forest, and can breed some distance from these; shrinking of pools during the dry season and limited availability can lead to overlap with human uses and resulting disturbance. Threats
Several threats are contributing to its decline, with their relative importance varying across its range. The loss of nest-sites through the felling of colony nest-trees is a major threat, particularly in Assam. In many areas, drainage and conversion of wetland feeding areas, agricultural intensification, increased pesticide use and disturbance, the collection of eggs and chicks and the hunting of adults are major threats. Coastal populations are threatened by large-scale development, including aquaculture and the clearance of mangroves. A recent, and very serious threat, recorded in Nepal and Cambodia, is the practice of poisoning pools to catch fish, which leads to incidental mortality of this species
(Gyawali 2004, S. Browne in litt
. 2005). The extensive nesting colonies outside protected areas in Assam in the 1990s (Choudhury 2000) have recorded drastic declines owing to the cutting down of trees and drying up of some feeding sites (A. Choudhury in litt.
2012). Conservation actions underway
Important nesting colonies are found in Kaziranga and Dibru-Saikhowa National Parks and Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam and D'Ering Sanctuary, Arunachal Pradesh. In Cambodia, the breeding colonies at Prek Toal and Moat Khla/Boeng Chhma are core areas in the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve. Between 1997 and 1999, enforcement of regulations at Prek Toal appears to have reduced exploitation of breeding colonies. It is included in conservation awareness material in Laos and Cambodia. In parts of Cambodia financial incentives have been offered to local residents by conservation organisations if nesting attempts at known waterbird colonies are not disrupted
(T. Evans in litt
. 2006). The species was the focus of recent studies in Nepal which estimated the national population size and threats, as well as making a number of conservation recommendations (Gyawali 2004, Baral 2005). It was also revealed that the majority of Lesser Adjutant that breed in Nepal do so outside of protected areas
(Baral 2005). Recent initiatives in Assam include nest surveys, a nest-tree replanting scheme and conservation awareness campaigns. Conservation actions proposed
Monitor key colonies, and conduct searches for others. Protect nesting colonies outside protected areas. Promote control of pesticide use around feeding areas. Establish a wildlife protection office at Tonle Sap lake. Investigate alternative livelihoods for people dependent on harvesting eggs and chicks. Draft and enforce laws prohibiting hunting, trapping and poisoning. Expand conservation awareness programmes. Research the species's use of and dependence upon agricultural landscapes including rice paddies
(Baral 2005). List the species in Nepal under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act (Gyawali 2004, Baral 2005). Protect key sites in Nepal.
Choudhury, A. 2000. The birds of Assam. Gibbon Books and WWF-India, Guwahati, India.
Bird, J. P.; Mulligan, B.; Gilroy, J. 2007. Cambodia ornithological expedition 2006.
BirdLife International. 2001. Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.
Choudhury, A. 2005. First record of Lesser Adjutant Leptopilos javanicus for Bhutan. Forktail 21: 164-165.
Gyawali, N. 2004. Conservation fund reports of grant-assisted work: population status and habitat preferences of Lesser Adjutant in Royal Chitwan National Park, Nepal. BirdingASIA: 8-9.
Mishra, A.; Mandal, J.N.; Ghosh, T. K. 2004. Breeding of Lesser Adjuvant from an unexplored area of Kosi region of N Bihar. Newsletter for Birdwatchers 44: 84.
Baral, H.S. 2005. Surveys for Lesser Adjutant Leptopilos javanicus in and around Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, Nepal. Forktail 21: 190-193.
Sharma, S. 2006. Population status and distribution of Lesser Adjutant (Leptoptilus javanicus) in far-western lowland Nepal. Tigerpaper 33(4): 9-11.
Li, Z.W.D., Yeap, C. A.; Kumar, K. 2007. Surveys of coastal waterbirds and wetlands in Malaysia, 2004-2006. In: Li, Z. W. D.; Ounsted, R. (ed.), The status of coastal waterbirds and wetlands in Southeast Asia: results of waterbird surveys in Malaysia (2004-2006) and Thailand and Myanmar (2006), pp. 1-40. Wetlands Internationa, 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).
View photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection
Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Davison, G., Peet, N., Pilgrim, J., Taylor, J., Tobias, J.
Browne, S., Choudhury, A., Clements, T., Evans, T., Sourav, S.
IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.
BirdLife International (2013) Species factsheet: Leptoptilos javanicus. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 22/05/2013.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2013) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 22/05/2013.
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
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Additional resources for this species