Common Name: Painted Stork

Scientific Name: Mycteria leucocephala

Painted Stork: picture shot at Pallikaranai marsh by B.Vinoth

Red List Category and Criteria: Near Threatened

Population Trend: Decreasing

Painted Storks have long yellow bills and bare waxy yellow faces, while their body is covered in white plumage with close black barring across the wings and a broad black bar across the breast. They have patches of pink feathers on their sides when they fold their wings. Storks can be identified in flight by their outstretched neck, though they appear hunched when resting.  Young nestlings have a fluffy white body, with a grey bill and grey-black plumage on their face that will shed as they reach sexual maturity.

Storks have about a three month breeding season that aligns with local monsoons. They are strongly dependant on foraging in agricultural land and waterclogged areas like marshes near their nesting areas (Urfi et al. 2007, Devkar et al. 2006). Painted Storks require tall nesting trees with suitably dense canopy and large sticks, leaves, or straw for nesting material to reproduce successfully (Devkar et al. 2006, IUCN 2015). Artificial nesting platforms can be successful alternatives if sufficient tree cover is not available, but nests can be abandoned even after eggs are laid if environmental or anthropogenic disturbances occur, water sources are depleted, or competition with other birds is too fierce (Urfi et al. 2007).

Predation of eggs by House Crows (Corvus splendens) and of chicks by Greater Spotted Eagles (Aquila clanga) is common (Urfi et al. 2007), and some speculate that populations nearer to human settlements receive greater protection from natural predators (Devkar et al. 2006). Both male and female storks share parental care.  Storks are social birds during breeding seasons, and nests are often clustered in large treetop colonies with other species like cormorants, pelicans, and egrets (IUCN 2015, Urfi 1993).

Storks are piscivorous, or rely primarily on fish in their diet. They are considered a shore or wading bird (Sashikumar et al. 2011, Vencatesan et al. 2014), and their long legs allow them to wade in shallow water as they stir up fish with their feet. They use their submerged beaks to feel and snatch their prey which can include frogs, and snakes (IUCN 2015). Adults consume fish smaller than 20cm in length during the breeding season to regurgitate to their young in the nests (Kalam et al. 2008).

Painted Storks are threatened by rural urbanization and habitat loss. This species is considered an indicator of environmental change, and population size and sexual fitness can serve as a monitor of ecological health (Urfi 2010). Their survival and breeding success is determined by fish abundance, availability of waterlogged land, disturbances during the breeding season, and existing tree cover for nesting (Urfi 1993). Increasingly urban landscapes threaten to pollute existing water sources with heavy metals and pesticide residues, while wetland drainage and decreased connectivity between wetland areas decreases suitable breeding and feeding habitat.

Compiled by Calli Wise,  a former intern at Care Earth from Juniata College, Pennsylvania, USA.


  1. Ali, Sálim. 2012. The Book of Indian Birds. 13th Edition. Oxford University Press, New York.
  2. Birding in India and Indian Subcontinent. <>
  3. BirdLife International 2012.Mycteria leucocephala. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 11 August 2015.
  4. Daniels, RJR. (2015). Birds of Pallikarnai Marsh, Chennai. Newsletter for Birdwatchers, Volume 54 (issue 3).
  5. Devkar, R.V; Buch, J.N; Khanpara, P.S; Katara, R.D. 2006. Management and Monitoring of Captive Breeding of Painted Stork and Eurasian Spoonbill in Zoo Aviary. Zoos’ Print Journal 21(3): 2189-2192.
  6. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <> Accessed 11 Aug. 2015.
  7. Kalam, A; Urfi, A. J. 2008. Foraging Behavior and Prey Size of the Painted Stork. Journal of Zoology. 247:2. 198-204.
  8. Sashikumar, C; J, Praveen; Palot, MJ, Nameer, PO. 2011. Birds of Kerala: Status and Distribution. DC Books, Kottayam.
  9. Urfi, A. J. 1993. Breeding Patterns of Painted Storks (Mycteria leucocephala Pennant) at Delhi Zoo, India. Colonial Waterbirds, Vol 16:1, 95-97.
  10. Urfi, A.J. Using Heronry Birds to Monitor Urbanization Impacts: A Case Study of Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala Nesting in the Delhi Zoo, India. Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. 39: 190-193.
  11. Urfi, A.J; Meganathan, T; Kalam, A. 2007. Nesting ecology of the Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala at Sultanpur National Park, Haryana, India. Forktail 23. 150-153.
  12. Vencatesan, J; Daniels, RJR; Jayaseelan, JS; Karthic, NM. 2014. Comprehensive Management Plan for Pallikaranai Marsh, Technical Report submitted to the Conservation Authority for Pallikaranai Marsh, Tamilnadu Forest Department. 264pp.
  13. <>