Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Jabiru

Jabirus breed from southern Mexico to southern Bolivia, northeastern Argentina and Uruguay. This stork is abundant only in the Chaco Pentanal of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, otherwise this bird is considered to be a threatened species. I took this photo at Yarinacocha in Amazonian Peru on 26 July 1972 and, despite my years in Peru and Ecuador, I have never seen one since.

A few vagrants have been reported from south Texas and one from Tulsa, Oklahoma. I think these records should be accepted with caution—perhaps as few as 250 Jabiru survive in Central America (Handbook of Bird of the World—Alive; AOU Checklist). More likely the Texas birds are escaped from captivity, as Jabiru are occasionally kept in zoos.

A number of reasons exist for the decline of the Jabiru. Typically they nest on the crowns of tall palm trees. The nests are made of sticks and mud, which are added to each year. Note the large stick being carried by the Jabiru in my photo. Eventually either the palm is killed or the nests, getting to be 2 meters wide and 1 meter deep, fall. Adults also often desert their nests, which are also attacked by Crested Caracaras. The species is also vulnerable to habitat destruction and hunting. The fat young are a popular food item in the Amazon Basin (Handbook of Bird of the World—Alive).

Jabiru eat almost any small animal they can catch, including fish, frogs, crabs, snakes, insects, turtles, and even young caimans (which are subdued by the Jabiru beating them against logs). Fish are often herded by groups of Jabirus into shallow water. Jabiru are not adverse to stealing food items from other storks or ibis (Handbook of Bird of the World—Alive).

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