Overview

Brief Summary

The Marabou Stork, Leptoptilos crumeniferus, is a large wading bird with an unsual appearance, commonly found in tropical areas of Africa. (2, 3). Marabous have a long tan beak, long legs, a white chest of feathers and wings covered with dark grey or black feathers. Adults can weigh up to 5-6 kg (12-14lbs) and can have a wingspan as large as 4 m (12 feet)(2).Marabou storks have a visible red throat air sac on its neck that it can inflate and deflate. Another sac can be found on the “hindneck” or behind the head and is hidden by feathers. (2).Marabou storks breed in colonies, each individual nest is made of sticks. Nests are built near a reliable food source and can be found built on high trees (10-30m), on rock faces or in towns and villages (1). Marabou storks are scavengers that feed in groups and eat a wide variety of food (carrion, fish, bugs, frogs, snakes, mice and rats). Their habitat ranges from savannas to riverbanks or lakeshores (1) however their eating habits have led them into urban areas where they can access garbage and waste from Abattoirs (slaughterhouses) and fishing villages where they can access fish and food waste from humans (1, 3, 4).

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Distribution

The Marabou stork is found throughout Africa. However, it usually resides somewhere between the Sahara Desert and South Africa. ( Dinsmore, 1997; Deignan, 1982)

Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )

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Sub-Saharan Africa: all S of Sahara except forest area, around Gabon, N Angola and W South Africa.

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Sub-Saharan Africa: all S of Sahara except forest area, around Gabon, N Angola and W South Africa.

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Sub-Saharan Africa: all S of Sahara except forest area around Gabon, N Angola and W South Africa.

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Range

Tropical Africa south of the Sahara.
  • Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2014. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.9. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/

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Physical Description

Morphology

Leptoptilos crumeniferus is a large, unusual looking bird. It stands on long, grey legs at about 1.5 meters tall. The bird's upper body and wings are black or dark grey, and its underparts are white. Its soft, white tail feathers are known as marabou. Its neck and head contain no feathers. The Marabou stork has a long, reddish pouch hanging from its neck. This pouch is used in courtship rituals. (Dinsmore, 1997)

Average mass: 9000 g.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Average mass: 8000 g.

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Behaviour This species is sedentary or locally nomadic (Hancock et al. 1992, del Hoyo et al. 1992). Populations in the north and south generally move towards the equator after breeding and other populations making dispersive movements in relation to water availablity (del Hoyo et al. 1992) or prey abundance (Hancock et al. 1992). In the tropics the species begins to breed in the dry season, but in the equatorial zone the timing of breeding is more variable (del Hoyo et al. 1992). It breeds in colonies numbering from 20-60 up to several thousand pairs and often nests with other species (del Hoyo et al. 1992). When not breeding the species often remains gregarious, feeding in groups and gathering at night in communal roosts of up to 1,000 individuals (Hancock et al. 1992). It may also associate with herds of large mammals in order to catch insects disturbed by their movements (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Habitat It inhabits open dry savannas, grasslands, swamps, riverbanks, lake shores and receding pools (del Hoyo et al. 1992) where fish are concentrated (Hancock et al. 1992), typically foraging in and around fishing villages (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Diet 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 (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (e.g. adult flamingoes Phoenicopterus spp.) (Brown et al. 1982). Breeding site The nest is constructed of sticks (del Hoyo et al. 1992) and is positioned 10-30 m above the ground in trees, on cliffs (del Hoyo et al. 1992) or on buildings in towns and villages (Brown et al. 1982). The species breeds colonially in single- or mixed-species groups (del Hoyo et al. 1992), usually in close proximity (less than 50-60 km) to a reliable food source (Hancock et al. 1992).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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The habitat of the Marabou stork includes aquatic, arid areas of Africa. The bird is also frequently found near landfills or fishing villages. (Lincoln Park Zoo, 1999)

Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland

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All open habitats and savannas

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All open habitats and savannas

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All open habitats and savannas

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Dispersal

Movements and dispersal

Resident

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Movements and dispersal

Resident

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Movements and dispersal

Resident

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Trophic Strategy

The Marabou stork is a scavenger. It primarily relies on the carcasses of dead animals as their source of food. However, they also eat live prey, such as fish, reptiles, and locusts. (Campbell, 1974; Dinsmore, 1997)

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Life Expectancy

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
25.0 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
41.0 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 44.7 years (captivity) Observations: In the wild, these birds may live up to 25 years (http://nationalzoo.si.edu/). In captivity, one specimen lived 44.7 years (Brouwer et al. 1992).
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Reproduction

Leptoptilos crumeniferus is known as a colonial breeder. It reaches sexual maturity when it is approximately four years old and usually mates for life. The stork lays its eggs in small nests made of sticks that hold two or three of its eggs. The Marabou breeds during the dry season because at this time the water levels are low, which make it easier to catch frogs and fish to feed the young. This stork may live up to 25 years. (Microsoft Encarta, 1999; Campbell, 1972)

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous

Average time to hatching: 30 days.

Average eggs per season: 2.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)

Sex: male:
1460 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)

Sex: female:
1460 days.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Leptoptilos crumeniferus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
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.

History
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
  • Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
  • Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
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