Herons, Storks and allies

The Ciconiiformes are typical ‘wading birds’, mostly associated with shallow water, they have long legs and long bills which allow them to forage in this habitat. Within this framework they show a considerable range of diversity and the feeding habits of Flamingos are considerable different from those of Adjutant Storks. Some species are still totally dependant on water, spoonbills, wood storks, openbill storks and the larger bitterns are good examples of this. Many however have shown the adaptive efficiency of their basic design and have moved partially away from the water. The extreme examples of this are Abdim’s Stork and Bald and Hadada Ibises all of which are more terrestrial than aquatic.
Most of the species in the Ciconiiformes are communal breeders, the notable exceptions being the Bitterns, the Black Stork, Hadada Ibis and Spotbreasted Ibis. Nests are usually built in trees (flamingos, and again the bitterns are the exceptions here)and most colonially nesting species often nest in mixed colonies such that you may find Storks, Ibises and Spoonbills as well as species of Herons and Egrets all nesting together. Many species have seasonal changes in the colour of their legs and bill during the mating season. The pair bond is important in most species and regularly repeated, ritualised, behavioural activities during courtship are common. All the actions displayed are adapted behaviours, adapted from non-reproductive interpersonal displays, which have become ritualised for the courtship display.

The Ciconiiformes contains a large number of very attractive, relatively large birds. They are important not only ecologically but as symbols of a healthy planet. It is a crying shame then to learn that over 20 percent of the Ciconiiformes are in danger and nearly all have suffered great reductions in numbers over the last century, some species have wild populations of less than 100 and several have not been seen for a number of years. The main cause for concern is habitat destruction as wetland habitats are among the often drained, either intentionally in order to gain access to the soil for human use or accidentally as a result of poor management of the area as a water resource for an ever growing human population. Unfortunately, because of their size, they are often the target of hunters, who ,now that they are equipped with modern weapons, are horrendously more efficient than they were for most of the past, this scenario has resulted in the people of Pakistan practically exterminating all the large wading birds that lived there. Other causes for concern are the inevitable attrition that human warfare takes, not only on the environment, but also on the spirit of the peoples living in strife riven lands. This often results in them losing their innate respect for the natural world. This is apparent in much of Asia, which when combined with the greed generated by western entrepreneurs, and the destructive influence of the worst of western culture has a disastrous effect on wildlife in general, but particularly on the larger birds. (text derived from earthlife.net)

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