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1 December 2013 / leggypeggy

Painted storks—the flashy birds of Keoladeo

painted stork, India

A painted stork protecting its young from the midday sun

Keoladeo National Park is a popular home for the tropical bird, the painted stork. Hundreds of pairs nest, breed and rear their young within the park, and we were lucky enough to see them close-up over the two days we spent visiting the park.

Although mostly white in colour, painted storks live up to their name with black markings on their wings and chest, pink on their lower backs and legs, yellow beaks and orange heads. Young ones don’t get adult colourings until they’re three years old.

painted stork, India

Painted stork taking off

These storks, which are about a metre tall, breed and nest from mid-August to February (and sometimes later), and both parents sit on the clutch of two to five eggs. Incubation lasts about a month, and I’m guessing the many of the chicks we saw were a couple of months old.

Crows are the most common predators for eggs and young chicks, while black kites go for larger chicks. I was amused to read that young chicks, when threatened, disgorge food and feign death by crumpling on to the nest floor. Tigers, leopards, hyenas and other largish carnivores find the adults quite tasty.

Painted stork with chicks

Painted stork with chicks

Chicks are exceptionally noisy, and we heard them before we saw them. They use loud, hoarse calls to let their folks know they are plenty hungry. Mum and dad gather fish (a painted stork’s favourite food), which they later regurgitate for the chicks. Parents are obviously quite protective of their young. We saw them standing with wings outstretched to shield the little ones from the heat of the day.

As an aside, chicks ‘lose’ their voices at the age of 18 months and ever-after communicate by clattering their bills or hissing or bowing to each other or spreading the wings.

Painted storks happily share their habitat with other waterbirds, and we saw storks, herons, cormorants and spoonbills sharing the same tree.

After seeing so many storks in one place, I was surprised and pleased to read that they are a protected species in India.

painted storks, colony

Colony of painted storks in Keoladeo


Leave a Comment
  1. lmo58 / Dec 1 2013 10:39 pm

    The storks are certainly very attractive Peggy. Thank you as always for these excellent photos.


    • leggypeggy / Dec 2 2013 12:58 am

      They are beautiful and gangly at the same time, and wonderfully colourful.


  2. timalil / Dec 3 2013 12:24 am

    I like the photos with the nest and the babies! I’ve seen similar images of painted storks while in Sri Lanka – but not a nest! I didn’t get to go upclose to their trees 😦


    • leggypeggy / Dec 3 2013 2:18 am

      We felt lucky to see the babies in the nests. The trees in Keoladeo were full of nests, so it was easy for us to see lots. I hope you get a chance to do the same.


      • timalil / Dec 3 2013 2:38 am

        some day, hopefully 🙂


      • leggypeggy / Dec 3 2013 5:09 pm

        I’ll cross my fingers on your behalf.


  3. Sy S. / Dec 5 2013 12:08 am

    LP, nice series of the painted stork photos… and even a big group one. I had never seen ones in orange before.
    Does this local flocks, fly international and delivery babies outside of India? Do they have a seasonal migration ? Northern Asia. Europe,,Africa?


    • leggypeggy / Dec 5 2013 4:23 am

      Hi Sy, I think these birds are resident in Keoladeo, and I can certainly see why. It’s a wonderful park.


  4. prayaanindiaoverland / Dec 5 2013 1:49 am

    Nice pictures.. Dear Sy.s painted storks don’t do international migration.They do local migration like from north to south and from south to north.


  5. lmo58 / Dec 6 2013 7:04 pm

    Beautiful photos and commentary Peggy. Thank you. I especially liked the Jungle Babler—such a beautiful colour.


    • leggypeggy / Dec 6 2013 10:49 pm

      Thanks Louise. The babblers are very common throughout India. I saw seven this morning sitting on a wall.



  1. Keoladeo—a wetland wonderland for birds and twitchers | Where to next?

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