Formerly common and widespread, it has declined dramatically across its range and has been extirpated from many areas in recent decades owing a variety of threats including the persistent and unregulated harvesting of eggs and chicks at nesting colonies, loss of nesting trees and loss and degradation of wetland habitats. However, some populations at least seem to be relatively stable, e.g. numbers in the Matang Mangrove Forest, Malaysia have remained relatively constant for 20 years (Li et al. 2006), and numbers are increasing at Prek Toal, Cambodia owing to nest and colony protection (S. Mahood in litt. 2013). The global population may previously have been underestimated and may number c.5,500-10,000 mature individuals
Habitat and Ecology
Life History and Behavior
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Leptoptilos javanicus
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Important nesting colonies are found in India at Kaziranga and Dibru-Saikhowa National Parks and Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam and D'Ering Sanctuary, Arunachal Pradesh. In Cambodia, the breeding colonies at Prek Toal and Moat Khla/Boeng Chhma are core areas in the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve. Conservation programmes at Prek Toal and in Preah Vihear have effectively protected colonies from egg and chick harvesting since the early 2000s (Goes in press, S. Mahood in litt. 2013). It is included in conservation awareness material in Laos and Cambodia. In parts of Cambodia financial incentives have been offered to local residents by conservation organisations if nesting attempts at known waterbird colonies are not disrupted (T. Evans in litt. 2006). It occurs in Chitwan and Bardia National Parks and in Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve in Nepal. Recent initiatives in Assam include nest surveys, a nest-tree replanting scheme and conservation awareness campaigns. Conservation Actions Proposed
Monitor key colonies, and conduct searches for others. Protect nesting colonies outside protected areas. Promote control of pesticide use around feeding areas. Establish a wildlife protection office at Tonle Sap lake. Investigate alternative livelihoods for people dependent on harvesting eggs and chicks. Draft and enforce laws prohibiting hunting, trapping and poisoning. Expand conservation awareness programmes. Research the species's use of and dependence upon agricultural landscapes including rice paddies (Baral 2005). List the species in Nepal under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act (Gyawali 2004, Baral 2005). Protect key sites in Nepal.
The lesser adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus) is a large wading bird in the stork family Ciconiidae. Like other members of its genus, it has a bare neck and head. It is however more closely associated with wetland habitats where it is solitary and is less likely to scavenge than the related greater adjutant. It is a widespread species found from India through Southeast Asia to Java.
A large stork with an upright stance, a bare head and neck without a pendant pouch, it has a length of 87–93 cm (34–37 in) (outstretched from bill-to-tail measurement), weighs from 4 to 5.71 kg (8.8 to 12.6 lb) and stands about 110–120 cm (43–47 in) tall. The only confusable species is the greater adjutant, but this species is generally smaller and has a straight upper bill edge (culmen), measuring 25.8–30.8 cm (10.2–12.1 in) in length, with a paler base and appears slightly trimmer and less hunch-backed. The skullcap is paler and the upper plumage is uniformly dark, appearing almost all black. The nearly naked head and neck have a few scattered hair-like feathers. The upper shank or tibia is grey rather than pink, the tarsus measures 22.5–26.8 cm (8.9–10.6 in). The belly and undertail are white. Juveniles are a duller version of the adult but have more feathers on the nape. During the breeding season, the face is reddish and the neck is orange. The larger median wing coverts are tipped with copper spots and the inner secondary coverts and tertials have narrow white edging. The wing chord measures 57.5–66 cm (22.6–26.0 in) in length. Like others in the genus, they retract their necks in flight. In flight, the folded neck can appear like the pouch of the greater adjutant. Males and females appear similar in plumage but males tend to be larger and heavier billed.
Distribution and habitat
The lesser adjutant tends to be widely dispersed and is very local. It is often found in large rivers and lakes inside well wooded regions. It is found in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh (A colony with about 6 nests and 20 individuals was discovered near Thakurgaon in 2011.), Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Laos, Singapore, Indonesia and Cambodia. The largest population is in India in the eastern states of Assam, West Bengal and Bihar. It may occur as a vagrant on the southern edge of Bhutan. They are extremely rare in southern India.
Behaviour and ecology
The lesser adjutant stalks around wetlands feeding mainly on fish, frogs, reptiles and large invertebrates. They rarely feed on carrion. They may also take small birds and rodents particularly during the breeding season. They are solitary except during the breeding season when they form loose colonies. The breeding season is February to May in southern India and November to January in north-eastern India. The nest is a large platform of sticks placed on a tall tree. The nest diameter is more than a metre and up to a metre deep. The clutch consists of three to four eggs. They are silent but have been noted to clatter their bill, hiss and moan at the nest.
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- Andheria, A. (2003). "First sighting of lesser adjutant-stork Leptoptilos javanicus from Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Mumbai". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 100 (1): 111.
- Baker, ECS (1929). Fauna of British India. Birds. Volume 6 (2 ed.). London: Taylor and Francis. pp. 329–330.
- Maust, M., Clum, N. and Sheppard, C. (2007). "Ontogeny of chick behavior: a tool for monitoring the growth and development of lesser adjutant storks". Zoo Biol. 26 (6): 533–538. doi:10.1002/zoo.20156. PMID 19360599.
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