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The Lesser Adjutant is threatened by habitat loss with drainage and destruction of wetlands for human developments. Hunting pressure and trapping for bird-trade also contribute to the decline of the populations.
The Lesser Adjutant is listed as Vulnerable by Birdlife International.

Fr: Marabout chevelu
All : Kleiner Adjutant
Esp : Marabú Menor
Ital : Marabù minore asiatico
Nd : Javaanse Maraboe
Sd : Mindre adjutantstork

Photographers :

Steve Garvie
RAINBIRDER Photo galleries

Ingo Waschkies
My bird pictures on Pbase

Text by Nicole Bouglouan

Sources :

HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD vol 1 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliot-Jordi Sargatal - Lynx Edicions - ISBN: 8487334105

Avibase (Lepage Denis)

ARKive (Christopher Parsons)

BirdLife International (BirdLife International)

Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia


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Page Family Ciconiidae

Summary cards


Lesser Adjutant
Leptoptilos javanicus

Ciconiiforme Order – Ciconiidae Family

Length: 110-120 cm
Wingspan: 200-210 cm 
Weight: 5 kg

The Lesser Adjutant is a large bird of the family Ciconiidae. This species is listed as Vulnerable with declines due to hunting pressure.

Both sexes are similar.
The adult has dark slaty blue-black upperparts and white underparts. The white neck base is spotted black. Underwing and undertail are black.
Head and neck are bare. The neck is yellow and sparsely feathered dark grey. The head shows whitish forehead and crown, with bony plate on head top. The head sides are vinous-tinged, and become brighter during the breeding season. The hind crown shows some curly feathers.
The long, thick beak is greyish to horn-coloured. Eyes are pale blue to bluish-white. Long legs and feet are greyish-blue.
In non-breeding plumage, the bare parts are duller.

The immature shows more feathering on neck and the upperparts are duller. 

The Lesser Adjutant, as most Ciconiidae species, is usually silent, but it can produce various vocalizations and noises at the breeding sites. The birds of the genus Leptoptilos squeal and moo. These sounds usually accompany the typical “up-down” greeting display.

The Lesser Adjutant frequents the wet areas such as mangroves, mudflats, marshes, flooded grasslands, coastal swamps, lakes and ricefields. It breeds in wet habitats.

The Lesser Adjutant occurs in India and Sri Lanka to S China, Indochina and Indonesia. It is resident breeder from India to S China and Java.
It may be nomadic and locally migratory.

The Lesser Adjutant feeds mainly on aquatic preys such as fish, amphibians, reptiles and crustaceans. It also takes locusts, rodents and carrion.
It forages by walking and probing into the mud. It may sometimes thrust the head and partially the neck into the mud while probing.
It feeds along the water’s edge in mudflats. They forage in small groups, but about 50 metres apart. They jab the bill repeatedly into the soil in order to reach the preys hidden in the mud. They mainly take mudskippers (Periophtalmus). Their feeding behaviour is regulated by the tides, and the Lesser Adjutant often rests in mangroves at high tide.

During the breeding season, the bare parts of head and neck are brighter, making the displays more spectacular.
The “Up-down” greeting display is used to strengthen the pair-bonds, and occurs when one bird returns to the nest. The head is raised and lowered while the bird utters some sounds. This display may be also used as threat against predators or intruders. 

Several typical displays are used between mates, and the copulation usually takes place on the nest, and can be frequent during the nest building. The courtship displays start about three months before the laying. They breed in colonies but outside the breeding season, the Lesser Adjutant is a solitary bird.

The Lesser Adjutant has long, broad wings that it uses for soaring. While flying, it retracts the neck, probably due to the heavy bill. Soaring is often alternated with some wing-beats.

The breeding season varies according to the range. The Lesser Adjutant forms groups at the beginning of the dry season.
It breeds in small loose colonies established in tall trees, sometimes with other Ciconiidae species, at wetland’s edges and typically in mangroves.
The large nest is a platform made with sticks, and placed between 12 and 30 metres above the ground.
The female lays 2-4 eggs and incubation lasts about one month. The chicks are sparsely feathered. Both parents share all the nesting duties. 

The Lesser Adjutant feeds mainly on mudskippers of genus Periophtalmus. It forages by walking in mudflats and all types of wetlands, searching for preys such as frogs, crustaceans and reptiles. It also catches grasshoppers, small rodents and often takes carrion.
It probes into the mud with its long bill and often thrusts head and neck to reach the preys.