Karen & Damien
The rehabilitation and release of a young male “Black Necked Stork”, (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus) or more commonly known as a Jabaru, was a unique and rewarding experience for us both, something we will never forget and most likely never experience again.
The Jabaru is listed as an Endangered species in NSW. He came into the group under weight, very weak and unable to fly. With next to no knowledge of this species, some research on diet, housing and possible ailments was necessary, in the first few days we spoke to a lot of different people, we where asked several times “Are you sure it’s a Jabaru? They should not be found in that area.” Could someone have brought him back from up north?
That was our next concern, what should we do with him when he is ready to go. There seemed to be only two options, transport him back up north for release or send him to Taronga Zoo where he would live out his life as a display animal. Lucky for him, a check for the nearest Jabaru sightings with the NSW Bird Atlas, revealed that there had in fact been previous sightings in the Upper Hunter Valley, which is where he was found. With that in mind, we made the decision to go with a soft release from our place when that time arrived.
We quickly became very good fisherman, and well known to the local fish monger as he consumed a good 1~1.5kg of fresh fish, or more, per day. We would place live bass fingerlings in a wadding pool for his selection, he was given yabbies, the odd rat, plus his daily mixture of mullet, carp and eel.
He would stroll around the yard occasionally giving chase to some of my chickens, lucky for the kangaroos we had in care at the time, he had not yet perfected his stabbing technique as there tails may have looked like good tucker. Not so lucky where a couple of small trees, he loved to break off the branches and carry them around in his massive beak. After a while it became obvious he was not going to explore the local creek by himself, or even attempt to fly, we decided we would have to teach him what to do. For several weeks, on a daily basis, we would bribe him down to the creek with some fresh fish, once there, we would run around in the shallows flapping our arms as if chasing fish, he soon got this message and started to imitate our display.
When he seemed confident we would walk away and leave him down at the creek, he would then come back by himself later in the afternoon. Then one day he flew home, that was the last time we ever had to walk him down to the creek. Once he began to fly, he would fly up and down the creek, traveling further and further each day. He eventually started circling high in the sky, and would go that high we could hardly see him, he would then veer off in one direction and glide out of sight, still coming home and land on our roof every evening, his wings opened and clapping that enormous beak. This was a spectacular sight and a privilege for us to see, considering his wing span was a good 2 meters and he stood well over 1 meter tall with that shiny black beak, which was easily 30cm long.
His visits became less frequent as his hunting skills improved, eventually he never returned. A successful soft release of a spectacular bird. Almost 12 months after our last visit, we received a report of a healthy looking Jabaur that was sighted helping himself to a feed of eel from a farm dam, hopefully this was our old friend, living his new found life. The Jabaru is Australia’s only stork, if the chance ever comes up to see one of these magnificent birds in the wild, you should not pass it up, their sheer size, personality and display will not disappoint.