Photos by Hans Wohlmuth
It’s that time of year again folks, summer rains are beginning and with them you might be lucky enough to spot the rare and endangered Black–necked stork, more commonly known as the Jabiru.
We may connect this bird with north Queensland or The Territory but they were once common residents throughout the northern rivers prior to destruction of their habitat.
Jabiru are large black and white birds with brilliantly iridescent bluey-green head and neck feathers. They also have distinctive long red legs and a huge dark beak. At this time of year they’ll possibly be the largest bird you’ll see flying overhead. At 1.5 metres tall and a wingspan between 2 to 2.5 metres, they rival the big raptors.
Jabiru feed in wetlands and back-swamps using that huge beak to scour shallow water for food. They eat invertebrates like insects, crabs, and prawns as well as fish, eels and frogs. They also eat plants and on rare occasions have been seen feeding in family groups of two or three.
So how do you tell the girls from the boys? It’s easy if you can get close enough, the female has a bright yellow eye whereas the male’s eye is brown but don’t think you’ll see them around the Lake or on Ross Lane, remember they are very rare. However, if you’re lucky, you may see them standing or wading in swamps and wetlands along less frequented roads. Our local wetlands are one of the few places the Jabiru consistently nest in this region.
Jabiru’s build large platform nests up to two metres wide using large sticks, mud and grass and they lay 2-4 eggs but generally only raise one chick, a reason why it’s very hard for them to increase their population. They nest in secluded, undisturbed habitat surrounded by large trees.
If you’re an adventurous type, you might see Jabiru in the Ballina Nature Reserve and the North Creek wetlands. Mostly though, they’ll be seen in flight, and in-flight they are very impressive with their missile like black beaks, black and white plumage and long trailing red legs. If you are lucky enough to see one, you can register your observation with the National Parks and Wildlife Service’s Jabiru Atlas database.
Before the Jabiru’s habitat was damaged or removed by land clearing, agricultural practice and urban/industrial expansion, a lot of the land around Lennox Head was prime Jabiru habitat. Landcare re-plantings around our wetlands, even around Lake Ainsworth could help in assisting Jabiru population recovery.
If you would like to join us, please contact us or simply turn up to one of our working bees.
Further info, www.lennoxheadlandcare.org; email: email@example.com, phone Shaun on 0448 221 210 or find us on Facebook ‘Lennox Head Landcare’.