2212. Leptoptilos dubius

(2212) Leptoptilos dubius.

The Adjutant.

Ardea dubia Gmelin, Syst. Nat., i, p. 624 (1789) (India). Leptoptilus dubius. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 373.

Vernacular names. Hargila, Garur, Peda-dhauk (Hind.); Dusta. (Dakhani); Chaniari Dhauk (Beng.); Pinigala-konga (Tel.); Don-zat (Burma).

Description. - Breeding plumage. Head, pouch and neck naked, a few scattered dark brown hair-like feathers on the nape, neck and sides of the head ; a ruff of white feathers round the base of the neck; upper plumage, wings and tail black, slightly glossed with green; innermost secondaries and greater wing-coverts silvery-grey ; breast, flanks and abdomen white; under tail-coverts soft and feathery, like the Marabout feathers of commerce, but white, not grey.

Colours of soft parts. Iris white or yellowish-white; blue-brown in young birds; bill pale yellowish or greenish-fleshy, more red in the breeding-season near the base; bare skin of head dull reddish-brown, turning to brick-red on the hind-neck and blackish on the fore-crown; pouch and neck yellow, more pink on the pouch and quite fleshy-pink on the end of this, where it is also spotted with black ; legs and feet pale greyish-white to pale horny-brown ; the pouch can be extended to a great size, looking like a child's pink balloon with smeary black spots.

Measurements. Wing 800 to 820 mm.; tail 310 to 335 mm.; tarsus 320 to 330 mm.; culmen 320 to 345 mm.

In non-breeding dress the secondaries and coverts are like the rest of the wing.

Young birds have far more feathering to the naked parts and have the inner secondaries and coverts dark brown. Nestling in down pure white.

Distribution. India, Burma, the Indo-Chinese countries, Malay Peninsula to Sumatra, Java and Borneo.

Nidification. The Adjutant breeds during the cold weather, roughly from October to December, most eggs being laid in the latter half of November. There are small colonies in Assam, larger ones in the Sunderbunds and two small colonies in Orissa, whilst it has also been recorded as having bred in Goruckpore. Its real breeding-ground, however, is in South Burma. Here they breed both on the rocks of the Pegu Hills and in the forests, on the former in company with the Lesser Adjutant and on the latter with the Pelicans. On the rocks the colonies are small but in the forests they breed literally in hundreds of thousands, scattered over an area extending through a great part of Pegu on the Ataran River.

The nests are immense structures of sticks and branches with no lining, which are resorted to year after year by the birds until they become filthy in the extreme. The trees selected are the largest in the forest, often Cotton-trees (Bombax sp.) without a branch for 50 to 70 feet and almost unclimbable, the nest being placed on one of the lower horizontal boughs. As a rule there is but one nest in each tree, but occasionally two or three, whilst in one of the Orissa colonies there are 14 nests on two great trees, 9 on one and 5 on the other. The eggs number three or four, rarely two only, and are typical Stork's eggs with the close pitted texture and fine surface usual to this family Fifty egg average 77.3 x 57.5 mm.: maxima 82.8 X 61.5 and 80.0 x 64.7 mm.; minima 70.1 x 54.2 and 74.0 x 51.5 mm. It is curious that though this Adjutant is so much larger than the next bird, there is but little difference in the size of their eggs.

Habits. In India the Adjutant is mostly a rainy season visitor but it no longer comes in the vast numbers of fifty years ago. At that time during the rains Adjutants could be seen on the highest points of almost every house in Calcutta, whilst on the open ground and on the racecourse birds stalked solemnly about hunting for offal and odd scraps, hardly deigning to move out of the way of passers-by. These birds came as scavengers and with the advance of municipal sanitary work the Adujtant and the Jackal have had to move farther afield. They are still common in many parts of Eastern Bengal from June to September, whilst in Burma they distribute themselves over the whole country, where it is suitable to their requirements. Their tastes are omnivorous and there are few things an Adjutant will not swallow, whilst they have a curious habit of picking up bright unusual objects, from small pieces of metal to articles the size of a soda-water bottle. On the ground they are Aery ungainly birds and their love dances are more ludicrous than beautiful, even when accompanied by the normal clattering noise made by Storks. On the wing, however, they are very majestic and a flight of these birds sailing round in great circles is very imposing. They rise on the wing fairly easily but always have to run some distance first. This Stork, although without voice muscles, makes a curious grunting noise the source of which is not known, but which is loud enough to be heard at some distance.

The Fauna Of British India, Including Ceylon And Burma-birds(second Edition)
Baker, EC S (1922–1930) The fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Second edition. vol.6 1929.
Title in Book: 
2212. Leptoptilos dubius
Book Author: 
Edward Charles Stuart Baker
Page No: 
Common name: 
Greater Adjutant
Leptoptilos dubius
Vol. 6
Term name: 

Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.
Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith