[order] CICONIIFORMES | [family] Ciconiidae | [latin] Leptoptilos crumeniferus | [authority] Lesson, 1831 | [UK] Marabou Stork | [FR] Marabout d’Afrique | [DE] Marabu | [ES] Marabu Africano | [NL] Afrikaanse Maraboe
Leptoptilos is a genus of very large tropical storks. Two species are resident breeders in southern Asia, and the Marabou Stork is found in sub-Saharan Africa. These are huge birds, typically 110?150 cm tall with a 210?250 cm wingspan. The three species each have a black upper body and wings, and white belly and undertail. The head and neck are bare like those of a vulture. The huge bill is long and thick. Juveniles are a duller, browner version of the adult. Leptoptilos storks are gregarious colonial breeders in wetlands, building large stick nests in trees. They feed on frogs, insects, young birds, lizards and rodents. They are frequent scavengers, and the naked head and neck are adaptations to this, as are those of the vultures with which they often feed. A feathered head would become rapidly clotted with blood and other substances when a scavenging bird’s head was inside a large corpse, and the bare head is easier to keep clean. Most storks fly with neck outstretched, but the three Leptoptilos storks retract their necks in flight like a heron. There is an ample fossil record of this genus. L. titan, which was hunted by prehistoric humans, was truly gigantic, and L. falconeri possibly was one of the most widespread storks worldwide during the Pliocene.
A large male Marabou Stork, standing up to 1.5 m tall and weighing nearly 9 kg, is one of the largest flying birds in the world. Their wingspan approaches 2.9 m. Females are generally smaller. It has a nearly bald, spotted, scab-encrusted head, with its huge bill. Dark, hair-like feathers are scattered across the head, neck, and nape. The bare skin of the head and neck is pink to magenta in color, with spots of dark. In breeding season the back of the neck turns a beautiful pale blue-green. One bright pink medium-sized bulbous sac protrudes from the feathers of the upper back. A larger pendulous flesh-colored gular sac hangs below the throat when inflated. The Marabou’s back and wings are dark slate-gray with a touch of green iridescence on the wings and pale blue iridescence on the back. The feathers of the neck ruff, chest and belly are white. It has long, pure-white, undertail-coverts. Eyes are grayish-brown. Legs and feet dark gray to black but appears to be much lighter due to the layer of excrement usually covering it.
Listen to the sound of Marabou Stork
Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto
Africa : widespread
It inhabits open dry savannas, grasslands, swamps, riverbanks, lake shores and receding pools where fish are concentrated, typically foraging in and around fishing villages.
In the tropics the species begins to breed in the dry season, but in the equatorial zone the timing of breeding is more variable. It breeds in colonies numbering from 20-60 up to several thousand pairs and often nests with other species. When not breeding the species often remains gregarious, feeding in groups and gathering at night in communal roosts of up to 1000 individuals. The nest is constructed of sticks and is positioned 10-30 m above the ground in trees, on cliffs or on buildings in towns and villages. The species breeds colonially in single- or mixed-species groups1, usually in close proximity (less than 50-60 km) to a reliable food source. The female lays 2-3 chalky white eggs. Both parents incubate for 29-31 days. The pale gray down of the newly hatched chicks is quickly replaced by a thicker covering of white down. Chicks grow rapidly in the first few weeks of life as their parents keep them constantly supplied with food regurgitated onto the floor of the nest. Their growth rate slows down as they begin to channel more of their energy into feather development. The pre-fledging period, 95-115 days, is relatively long in this species. Most birds reach sexual maturity in their fourth year and may live for more than 25 years.
Its diet consists predominantly of carrion and scraps of fish discarded by humans as well as live fish, termites, locusts, frogs, lizards, snakes, rats, mice and birds.
copyright: Martin Kennewell
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
The willingness of the Marabou Stork to adjust to human activity has benefited the species. Populations may actually be increasing in some areas. Its grotesque appearance and unsavory habits have made the Marabou Stork an unattractive target for hungry hunters. The Marabou’s more enlightened neighbors appreciate its efficiency in reducing disease by cleaning up carcasses and other rubbish.
This species is sedentary or locally nomadic. Populations in the north and south generally move towards the equator after breeding and other populations making dispersive movements in relation to water availablity or prey abundance