Black-necked stork

Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus

The Black- necked Stork is Australia’s largest wading bird and our only stork.  It stands 1.3m -1.5 m in height and its wingspan is 2.3m from tip to tip. The head colour is an amazing glossy, shimmery, black with blue, green and purple.

They have very long bright red legs and a straight black bill which is used to scoop and probe in the water for their food. Food consists of small invertebrates found in swamps and wetlands. Frogs, tadpoles, fish, eels and wetland plants are therefore its main food source.

Males and females have only one defining difference. The female has yellow eyes. Young adults/juveniles can be distinguished from the adult birds by a greyish plumage on their chests.

As the Black-necked stork does not have a voice box, chattering by bill clapping is their means of communication.

This very impressive black and white bird is listed as endangered, not only in Australia, but worldwide.  Once plentiful right along the east coast, their numbers have dramatically declined and are now listed as a threatened species. They continue to breed in the northern NSW river valleys; however only a few nests occur at each individual site.

The Black-necked stork mates for life but will re-mate if a partner is lost. They are usually seen feeding alone or in a family group of 3, where strong bonds are formed.  

Once thought of as nomadic or migratory, recent research suggests that they have a huge home range of 10,000 hectares. The wetlands of NE NSW is considered an important nesting ground for the Black-necked storks.

The Black-necked stork is sensitive to disturbance. Even though we still have wetlands, most of the vegetation has been modified (cleared or fragmented) drains have been established to make way for grazing land and pollutants from fertilizers has changed the landscape. Their once secretive nesting sites, next to their food source, have in many cases been exposed, leaving very few alternative sites. The Black-necked stork/ Jabiru requires intact dense habitat consisting of large trees near or next to a water source to survive. As a consequence, disturbance to this habitat, breeding has dramatically decreased all over the world as well as Australia.

Re-planting around billabongs and wetlands is considered an important process for the Black-necked stork recovery.

 Both parents share the job of incubating 2- 5 eggs on a large 2m diameter platform made of sticks. Usually only one chick will survive.

Electricity lines have also had a grave effect on the population. In an attempt to assist in their recovery and the survival of the species, the Threatened Species Recovery Plan has placed tags on many of the power lines near known nesting/feeding sites.

 In northern Australia, the species is traditionally called the Jabiru, which actually refers to a totally different species of stork which occurs in South and Central America.