Understanding bird behaviour

This post is in response to the Daily Post prompt-Understanding. It was a tricky topic for me and since I had these nice photos from last weekend’s outing, I thought why not use these to weave a plot where I literally needed to understand some facts.

These pictures are of a painted stork taken at Ameenpur lake in Hyderabad. The lake is normally host to flocks of Cormorants, flamingos, painted storks and sometimes even pelicans. Unlike on my previous outings, this particular day there were only a couple of these storks near the bank of the lake. These were evidently left behind as the rest of flock migrated to some other water body.

One of these birds was actually pecking morsels out of a big dead fish which I found very interesting. The pictures show the bird taking out pieces of meat with its beak, and tossing it up before catching it fully and swallowing it. With fish available aplenty in this lake, what made this bird to eat dead fish? Does this species have a tendency to scavenge or is it because of some existential stress that has manifested into a behavioral change. This question intrigued me.

collage_stork eating dead fish

So I looked up references to understand what the reason might be. Although I did not find any direct reference of a scavenging painted stork, I came to know that systematically this species Mycteria leucephala is grouped under the family Ciconiidae. This family consists of different species of Storks. Some of them, like Marabou Stork (Leptoptilos crumenifer) and the Adjutant stork (Leptoptilos dubius) are known scavengers.The Black vulture (Coragyps atratus) is also classified under this family in some references.

Apart from this, scavenger bird species possess morphological adaptations for feeding on carcasses. Such species have bald heads devoid of plumage and a featherless neck. These features help the bird delve deep into a carcass for scraping out the meat. The head and neck which gets bloodstained can be easily cleaned off in the water, so there are no chances of forming unwanted clots.

The painted stork possesses both these morphological features and is also taxonomically / systematically favored for being an occasional scavenger.

I have a question for bird lovers and ornithologists if they chance to visit this blog- Is the Painted stork a scavenger species? What do you think/ know? Let me know your opinion. Feel free to share your thoughts or comments.

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