Tuesday 21 May
Painted stork (Mycteria leucocephala)
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Painted stork fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Painted stork description
The painted stork (Mycteria leucocephala) is a large and fabulously colourful waterbird with a striking wing pattern. Although a drab brown when young, as an adult the painted stork displays primarily white plumage, with a bright pink tinge towards the tail and a black band of feathers across the chest. The broad wings appear striped black and white while folded, but when outstretched are almost entirely black apart from a white band in the centre (2) (3) (4) (5) (6).
The painted stork has a long, yellow-orange bill, a vivid yellow-orange face, and pink legs. This beautiful bird also has an incredibly long neck which, like most other storks, it holds outstretched during its elegant, soaring flight (2) (3) (4) (5) (6).
On first glance both the male and female painted stork look alike. However, the male tends to have a larger body and bill than the female (3) (4) (5) (6). Outside of the breeding season, the plumage, face and legs of the painted stork appear duller (2) (6).
- Also known as
- Indian wood stork, rosy wood ibis.
- Tantalus leucocephalus. Top
BirdLife International - Painted stork:
Wetland Link International - Asia:
- Diverse group of animals with jointed limbs and a hard chitinous exoskeleton, characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (mouthparts used for handling and processing food) and two pairs of maxillae (appendages used in eating, which are located behind the mandibles). Includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps, woodlice and barnacles.
- To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
- An area occupied and defended by an animal, a pair of animals or a colony.
IUCN Red List (March, 2011)
- Brazil, M. (2009) Birds of East Asia. A & C Black Publishers Ltd, London.
- Pattanaik, C., Prasad, S.N., Murthy, E.N. and Reddy, C.S. (2008) Conservation of painted stork habitats in Andhra Pradesh. Current Science, 95(8): 1001.
- Urfi, J.A and Kalam, A. (2006) Sexual size dimorphism and mating pattern in the painted stork (Mycteria leucocephala). Waterbirds, 29(4): 489-496.
- Thapar, V. (1997) Landof the Tiger. A Natural History of the Indian Subcontinent. University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles.
- Hancock, J.A., Kushlan, J.A. and Kahl, M.P. (2010) Storks, Ibises and Spoonbills of the World. Christopher Helm Publishers, London.
- Urfi, J.A. and Kalam, A. (2008) Foraging behaviour and prey size of the painted stork. Journal of Zoology, 274(1): 198-204.
- Meganathan, T. and Urfi, A.J. (2009) Inter-colony variations in nesting ecology of painted stork (Mycteria leucocephala) in the Delhi Zoo (North India). Waterbirds, 32(2): 352-356.
- Kannan, V. and Manakadan, R. (2007) Nocturnal foraging by painted storks Mycteria leucocephala at Pulicat Lake, India. Indian Birds, 3(1) 25-26.
BirdLife International (March, 2011)
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
Painted stork biology
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).Top
Painted stork range
The painted stork has a wide range in the Indian subcontinent and parts of South East Asia (2) (6). It occurs in Pakistan, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, China, Myanmar, Thailand, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Vietnam and Cambodia (1) (6). Despite this large range, the painted stork appears increasingly as a visitor rather than a resident of many countries. For example, in Vietnam it used to be considered a widespread bird, but now it is rarely seen and no longer breeds in the country (1).Top
Painted stork habitat
Open areas which support aquatic life, such as wetlands, marshes, ponds and flooded fields, are the preferred foraging habitat of the painted stork (2) (6) (7). It typically nests in waterside trees or tall bushes (2) (6), with tamarind trees (Tamarindus indica) being a favoured nesting site (3).Top
Painted stork status
The painted stork is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
Painted stork threats
The painted stork is considered to be threatened as the result of hunting, habitat destruction and agricultural pollution, which degrades its foraging habitat. Its meat is traded in local markets and its nesting trees, such as tamarind trees, are felled for agriculture and fuel (3) (6). It has also been noted that disturbance from human activities has caused the painted stork to flee from feeding and breeding areas (7) (10).
Although the painted stork is currently considered to be one of the more abundant storks in Asia, this is simply a reflection of the decline of other stork species within the region, rather than an indication of a thriving population (3).Top
Painted stork conservation
The painted stork occurs in a number of protected areas (10), but there are not currently known to be any specific conservation measures in place for this species.
The primary focus for future conservation efforts for the painted stork is to preserve wetlands in agricultural areas, by encouraging farming systems that create, rather than destroy, suitable feeding grounds for this species (4) (10). It has also been recommended that awareness campaigns should be carried out, to encourage local people to take pride in the painted stork and other large waterbirds and to deter hunting (10). This species may also need greater legal protection, and its nesting colonies require greater protection from disturbance (6) (10).Top
Find out more
Find out more about the painted stork and its conservation:
Find out about wetland conservation in Asia:
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.