In the Gorge with Kloof Conservancy — the Woolly-necked Stork

2019-01-15 06:01

THE Woolly-necked storks have, in recent years, become regulars in the Upper Highway area and their numbers appear to have increased significantly, suggesting it is adapting well to an urban environment. They are not frequently seen within the gorge but can often be spotted circling on the thermals near the cliff-edges. They are common in a number of areas in the Upper Highway, including Memorial Park where they have a nest on the edge of the park.

It is a large bird, typically 85 cm tall. It is all black except for the woolly white neck and white lower belly. The upperparts are glossed dark green, and the breast and belly have a purple hue. Juvenile birds are duller versions of the adult.

This species is usually seen alone, walking about slowly on the ground and along water where it picks up prey with its long bill. It is also attracted to termite emergences.

Although not very gregarious, it may be seen sometimes in pairs or small groups near water, but they rarely wade.

The species is predominantly carnivorous, its diet consisting of fish, frogs, toads, snakes, lizards, large insects and larvae, crabs, molluscs, and marine invertebrates. It forages by slowly walking through water or vegetation, stabbing at prey.

The nest is built by both sexes, consisting of a platform of sticks with a central bowl lined with fine twigs, grass, and green leaves. It is typically placed in the fork of a horizontal branch of a large tree, 10-50 metres above ground or water.

Two to four eggs are laid from August-December. These are incubated by both sexes for about 30-31 days. The chicks are fed and brooded by both parents, leaving the nest to roost in a nearby tree at about 55-65 days old, becoming fully independent roughly three weeks later.

They are not threatened globally, although they are near-threatened in South Africa due to low population numbers, largely caused by habitat destruction. Because of this, the Kloof population is some good news.

Woolly-necked Storks are solitary nesters and both mates probably stay together all year round.

As other Ciconiidae species, they perform the usual courtship displays. They make bill-clatters at nest, with the head resting back on the upper back.

The scientific name episcopus means “bishop” and is derived from the black “skullcap” typical on these birds. -Supplied.

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