Lesser adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus)

GenusLeptoptilos (1)
SizeLength: 122 – 129 cm (2)

The lesser adjutant is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).

Once a widespread and common species, the lesser adjutant has undergone a rapid decline in numbers recently, and is now rare throughout its range (3). This very large stork has long legs, neck and beak, and an upright posture. It is dark grey to black on the wings and back, and white on the underside. The head and neck are naked and yellow, but red in breeding males. Juveniles are duller and less glossy with more down on the head and neck (2).

Found in India and Southeast Asia, but no longer found in China (1) (3).

Inhabits fresh and saltwater wetlands, including riverbeds, floodplains, swamps, forest pools, lakes and paddy fields (3).

Generally a solitary bird, the lesser adjutant only forms groups during the breeding season. This occurs at the beginning of the dry season, which varies geographically. Small, loose colonies of lesser adjutant construct their nests in patches of tall trees that have a thick undergrowth of bamboo and are located on the edge of suitable wetlands. Courtship is lengthy, starting three months before eggs are laid. The nest consists of a large, flat platform of sticks lodged between thick branches of a tall tree. The male selects the nest site, carrying twigs to it to indicate his choice, as nests usually remain intact from one year to the next. Between one and four eggs are laid and are incubated for 28 to 30 days. The hatchlings emerge weak and sparsely feathered. Both parents tend to the eggs and bring food to the hatchlings (3).

The lesser adjutant feeds on frogs, fish and small reptiles (3).

Continuing destruction of wetlands and the felling of trees suitable as nesting sites has resulted in the rapid decline of this species. Foraging areas are being lost to urban and industrial expansion and hunting and capture for the pet trade are contributing to the ongoing population reduction (3).

Whilst the lesser adjutant is protected by law in all areas of India, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, and occurs in many protected areas, enforcement of this protection is weak. Much research has been carried out on the distribution and population numbers of this species and the focus must now switch to the protection of this bird. Education programmes have been shown to help in safeguard of any nest sites, and a plantation programme of nest-tree species was launched in India in 1993 (3).

For further information on the lesser adjutant see:

Authenticated (10/03/05) by BirdLife International.

  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2008)
  2. Stattersfield, A.J. and Capper, D.R. (1998) Threatened Birds of the World. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.
  3. BirdLife International. (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.