The mating season of the painted stork usually coincides with the latter part of the rainy season (6), typically occurring from August to October in the north of its range and November to March in the south (4). During this time, the male chooses a nest site and defends a territory, using bill pecking to ward off the more persistent competition (4) (5) (8). The female then selects a male, favouring larger individuals (4). Courtship takes the form of an elaborate bowing ritual, and once a pair has formed, they construct the nest together (5) (6).
The painted stork is a colonial nester, so a single tree may end up being full of nests situated just 30 centimetres apart (5). The painted stork often returns to the breed in the same tree year after year (5), and often nests in mixed colonies with other waterbirds, such as storks, ibises and herons (6).
The nest of this species consists of a platform of sticks, lined with vegetation (6). The female painted stork lays between two and five eggs, which are incubated for around a month, with both the male and female taking turns at incubation (5) (6). Both sexes share responsibilities for feeding the young storks (4), whose diet, like that of the adults, is composed primarily of fish (6) (7). However, the adults do not feed the young live fish, but regurgitate partly digested food for them (5) (6).
The young painted stork is usually able to fly after about 60 to 70 days, but does not become independent until 85 days old, and may still return to the nest until about 115 days of age. This species is quite slow to mature, developing full adult plumage at about three years old and first breeding at about four years (6).
The painted stork is an efficient angler, typically foraging for fish in water up to 25 centimetres deep, although it has been known to venture deeper to obtain a meal (7). Either alone or in groups, the painted stork often uses its feet to dislodge prey hidden amongst plants or buried in mud. It typically feeds by walking slowly in shallow water with the bill partly open, groping for prey (6) (7). Although it often forages during daylight, the painted stork may resort to foraging at night in areas with a high level of human disturbance during the day (9). In addition to fish, the painted stork has also been seen to take reptiles, frogs and crustaceans (6).