Magnificent Black-necked Stork needs our help

NEED TO BE PROTECTED: Black-neck Stork numbers are alarmingly low and to survive their habitat will have to be protected.
NEED TO BE PROTECTED: Black-neck Stork numbers are alarmingly low and to survive their habitat will have to be protected.

In Australia many people may know this amazing bird as a Jabiru.

This is now considered incorrect as a Jabiru is the name of stork found in the Americas, and the name is believed to be of Portuguese in origin.

The Black-necked Stork is the only stork found in Australia, with the majority living in the north of the country and only a few venturing as far south as the Hunter Valley.

This week a group of five birds were sighted on Hexham Swamp and probably represent a family group.

They are an amazing and rare sight and have been regularly recorded as fleeting visitors on wetlands around the Hunter.

They have a glossy dark green and purple neck, long red legs, a black and white body and a massive black bill.

The legs are long and a distinctive coral-red in colour.

They fly with the head and neck fully extended and the long legs trailing behind the tail.

The females have a yellow eye and young birds are mottled greyish-brown.

Black-necked storks are tall and stand at 120cm. They are found in river pools, shallow swamps and intertidal flats and have a huge home range of about 10000 hectares.

They prefer to feed alone or in pairs and are carnivorous, feeding on fish, water birds, turtle’s eggs and hatchlings and small crustaceans and amphibians.

In 2015 it was estimated that there were only 80 breeding pairs in NSW with approximately another 180 young or unattached birds.

Pairs nest at least six kilometres apart and there is no current opportunity for population increase as all available suitable habitat is occupied.

In 1998 they were listed as endangered in NSW.

YOUNG ONE: This immature bird does not yet have the distinctive black markings.

YOUNG ONE: This immature bird does not yet have the distinctive black markings.

Black-necked Storks have a dance-like mating display which includes extending and fluttering the wings rapidly and clattering their bills together.

A nest is built high in a secluded tree near water and their food supply. It consists of a two metre wide platform of sticks and other vegetation and both parents incubate the two to five eggs.

Usually only one chick survives although last year in the Hunter two immature birds were observed at Hexham.

These beautiful ungainly birds can only survive if we protect their habitat by planting suitable trees in reclaimed swampland and placing tags on powerlines, another danger, near known nesting and feeding sites.

Hunter Bird Observers Club website can be found at www.hboc.org.au