Greater Adjutant Stork

The greater adjutant stork (Leptoptilos dubius) belongs to the Ciconiidae family of storks. Its genus comprises Asian lesser adjutants and African marabou storks. The greater adjutant, which was once found widely across southern Asia, primarily in India but also in Borneo, is now restricted to a much smaller range, with only three breeding populations: two in India, with the largest colony in Assam and a smaller one around Bhagalpur, and another breeding population in Cambodia. To know more about this species for UPSC 2022, keep reading the article.

Candidates can read about the Species in News for UPSC Prelims at the linked article.

Greater Adjutant Stork Behavioural Pattern

In shallow lakes, drying lake beds, and rubbish dumps, the larger adjutants are commonly observed individually or in small groups. They are frequently seen with kites and vultures and will sit huddled motionless for lengthy periods. They use their enormous wings to glide on and also keep them spread to regulate their body temperature. After the mating season, they spread out widely. This giant stork has a characteristic neck pouch, a huge wedge-shaped beak, and a bald head. It soars high up in the sky throughout the day.

Feeding Habits

The greater adjutant is omnivorous. They prey on frogs, giant insects, birds, reptiles, and rodents. They have been known to assault and devour wild ducks within reach. They also feed on numerous fish.

However, their primary food is carrion, and their bald head and neck are an adaptation for this habit. They feed on animal and human excreta and are frequently spotted in waste dumps. They feed on partially burned human corpses thrown along the river banks.

Around 36 prey species of this stork have been recorded in Assam.

Read in detail about the Human-Wildlife Conflict that results in losses in terms of life, property or resources, at the linked article. Also, read about:

Communication

Greater adjutants communicate with one another by moving their bodies and engaging in certain activities. Male adjutants entice females by presenting fresh twigs and hovering near them with their beaks. Pairs also undertook a head-bobbing ritual to strengthen their closeness during the breeding season. The male bird of the species creates loud clattering noises with its beak to guard its nest and territory. This deters other male birds from approaching. They can be heard mooing and bellowing in order to warn each other of impending dangers.

Conservation Status of the Greater Adjutant Stork (UPSC)

The loss of nesting and feeding habitat due to wetland disappearance, pollution, hunting and egg harvesting in the past have resulted in a dramatic fall in this species’ population. In 2008, the global population was believed to be less than 1,000 storks. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species classifies the larger adjutant as ‘Endangered.’

Attempts to breed them in captivity and prevent deaths of nestlings at their native nesting locations have been used as conservation efforts. However, because over 15% of the chicks are murdered when they fall from the nests or die of malnutrition, some conservationists have employed netting placed beneath the nests to avoid harming the nestlings. These injured birds are fed and reared in cages for around five months before being released back into the wild.

It should be noted for current affairs quizzes that the residents of Assam’s Kamrup district, home to one of the few significant colonies of larger adjutants, have been very vocal about these birds’ conservation. Adjutants have been successfully bred in other regions of India as well.

All these facts are important for the UPSC 2022.

Frequently Asked Questions on Greater Adjutant Stork

What are the reasons which led to the decline of the Greater Adjutant Storks?

The adult birds have no natural predators. The only known causes of their early death are human acts, such as poisoning, shooting, or electrocution. Also, loss of nesting and feeding habitat due to wetlands draining, pollution, and other disturbances, along with hunting and egg harvesting in the past, has resulted in a dramatic reduction in the population of this species.

What is the religious significance of the Greater Adjutant Stork?

They are revered as Vishnu’s mount, one of Hinduism’s most important deities. Some people revere the bird, referring to it as “Garuda Maharaj” or “Guru Garuda.” According to an Indian tale documented by the Moghul emperor Babur, a magical “snake-stone” resided inside the bird’s skull, acting as an antidote to all snake venoms and poisons.

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