Fr: Tantale indien
Ang: Painted Stork
All: Buntstorch
Esp: Tántalo Indio
Ita: Cicogna pittata
Nd: Indische Nimmerzat
Sd: indisk ibisstork


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Painted Stork
Mycteria leucocephala

Ciconiiformes Order – Ciconiidae Family

The Painted Stork was formerly placed in the genera Tantalus or Ibis. It may resemble ibises in appearance, but it differs in behaviour and several distinct structural features, mostly typical of Ciconiidae.
The Mycteria storks have a long, tapered, slightly decurved bill with sensitive areas towards the tip, very useful while foraging.
This species is widespread throughout Indian subcontinent and Asian plains. It is mainly resident with only some seasonal movements.
The Painted Stork is threatened by habitat loss, disturbance, pollution, egg and chick collection and hunting of adults. But in spite of several protected areas, the species is currently classified as Near Threatened.

Length: 93-102 cm
Weight: 2-3,5 kg

The Painted Stork adult has white body plumage with a bright pink area on tertials and inner greater coverts. On the wings, the flight-feathers are black, and there is a black-and-white pattern on both upper and underwing coverts.
On the underparts, we can see a blackish breast band patterned black-and-white like the underwing coverts. The underwing is blacker than the upperwing. The tail is blackish.

The naked head is orange-red. The long, thick bill is pinkish-yellow and droops slightly at tip. The eyes are pale blue-grey to bluish-white. Legs and feet are pinkish-red to brownish-red. The legs appear often whitish when covered with dejections to protect them against the sun.
Male and female are similar.

The adult in breeding plumage has redder skin on head. The bill is bright pinkish-peach. Legs and feet are brighter reddish to magenta. The body plumage is more contrasted and the pink area is much brighter.  

The immature is much duller, with pale greyish-brown head and neck with whitish streaks. The bare skin of the head is dull yellowish and less extensive.
On the upperparts, mantle and wing-coverts are pale greyish-brown with whitish fringes, whereas on the upperwing, lesser and median coverts are darker with whitish edges.
On the underparts, the dusky breast band is indistinct. The underwing-coverts are dark. There is often a slight pinkish wash on tertials.   

The Painted Stork breeds in S Pakistan, India (except NE), S Nepal, Sri-Lanka, and formerly Bangladesh and probably S China.
Outside the breeding season, some populations may disperse and reach Pakistan, NE India and Bangladesh. It is vagrant on Peninsular Malaysia.  

The Painted Stork frequents a variety of wet habitats such as marshes, lakes, ponds, freshwater swamp forest, and also flooded cultivated fields.
It occurs mainly in lowlands, but it can be seen up to 1000 metres of elevation.

The Painted Stork only produces bill-clattering at nest like most of Ciconiidae. However, visual, auditory, tactile and chemical perception allows the bird to communicate and perceive its environment.

The Painted Stork feeds on fish, crustaceans, amphibians, reptiles and insects. It feeds by typical tactile foraging method, during which the bird walks in shallow water (25 cm) holding its open bill underwater. As soon as a prey moves near the bill, the bird closes the mandibles and catches the prey.
It may forage in groups of up to 18-20 individuals.

Adults and juveniles

The Painted Stork is monogamous and highly gregarious even during the breeding season while nesting in colonies established in trees.

Nest-site and territory are selected and defended by the male. Then, the female chooses a mate and usually favours larger males. The courtship displays involve ritual bowing with the head being raised and lowered while performing bill-clattering and producing hisses. After pair formation, both mates build the nest together.

The Painted Stork is generally resident, and only performs local movements related to food availability.

The Painted Stork has long, broad wings used for soaring. This species is very beautiful and elegant while flying.

The breeding season takes place between July-August and October in North, and between November and March in South.
The Painted Stork nests in colonies usually established on several trees often over water. The colonies may include 70-100 nests often very close to each other.
Such colonies sometimes include other species such as Asian Openbill storks, herons, ibises and cormorants.        
The nest is a platform made with sticks, with a lining of softer vegetation.

The female lays 3-4 eggs and both adults incubate during one month. At hatching, the chicks are naked and with closed eyes. But later, they have whitish down overall, black face and bill, and dark wings, mostly brownish and black.
They are fed by regurgitation by both parents, and each adult takes turns to feed them until they fledge, about two months after hatching.
The chicks can be killed by raptors and House Crows, and sometimes by starvation depending on food availability.      

The Painted Stork is threatened by habitat loss through drainage of wetlands, disturbance, pollution, egg and chick collection and hunting of adults.
The species occurs in several protected areas in Cambodia, and this population has slightly increased between 2004 and 2011 at colony Tonle Sap in Cambodia, with 4,000/5,000 pairs.
The global population is estimated at 10,000/17,000 mature individuals and is suspected to be declining.
The Painted Stork is currently classified as Near Threatened.