The Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus) is a tall long-necked wading bird in the stork family. Over the past few years one or sometimes two Black-necked Storks visit the shire. Currently a juvenile near adult male and a female have been spotted at the wetlands, Brunswick salt marsh and Brunswick River. It’s a special experience to watch them standing in the reeds in the wetlands, chasing eels, shaking and thrashing them with their large bills, doing their dance-like takeoff or flying low, alone or together, over the ponds.
A shy bird, it will often take off when it sees any movement, perhaps because it needs such a long area to run and take off. Like most very large birds it has an amazing grace in flight and take-off, often looking like a dancer as it does it’s run up for takeoff.
The Black-necked Stork is the only stork found in Australia. It has black and white body plumage, glossy dark green and purple neck and massive black bill; it is easily distinguished from all other birds. The legs are long, thin and coral-red in colour. The female is distinguished by its yellow eye. In immature birds the black plumage is replaced by brown and the white plumage is duskier. This species is also called the Jabiru.
Pairs of Jabiru bond for several years, perhaps for life. Their nest is a large platform of sticks and other vegetation, which is placed in a tall tree standing in or near water. Birds are secretive and nest in isolated pairs. It is one of the few stork that is strongly territorial while breeding. This large stork has a dance-like display. A pair stalks up to each other face to face, extending their wings and fluttering the wing tips rapidly and advancing their heads until the meet. They then clatter their bills and walk away. The display lasts for a minute and may be repeated several times.
They feed on fish, small crustaceans and amphibians. Most prey is caught by the bird jabbing and seizing it with its large bill, some food by lunging forward with a large stride or by leaping in the air. In this area they love the eels in the ponds in the wetlands and will chase down mullet in Brunswick River.
Their call can be guttural grunts and they will also snap and clack their bills.In the past this species was found in much of eastern NSW, but is sadly now extinct throughout much of this area. The range of the Black-necked Stork has been reduced with the modification of flood plains and tall reed beds for agriculture, mining and human settlement.