Adjutant Stork

The Gigantic Crane

The Adjutant is a large kind of Stork, so called by the English in India and elsewhere "from its comical resemblance to a human figure in a stiff dress pacing slowly on a parade-ground" (Yule & Burnell, Hobson-Jobson, sub voce).  Also known as the Gigantic Crane, it belongs to the genus Leptoptilus, of which the members are distinguished by their sad-coloured plumage, their black, scabrous head, and their enormous tawny pouch, which drops, occasionally some 16 inches or more in length, from the lower part of the neck, and is not connected, as was once commonly believed, with the digestive system (see Air-Sacs).

In many parts of India Leptoptilus dubius, or Leptoptilus argala of some authors, the largest of these birds, the Hargila as Hindus call it, is a most efficient scavenger, sailing aloft at a vast height and descending on the discovery of offal, although frogs and fishes also form part of its diet. It has also been reported to forage for water-snakes using its long bill.  This bird familiarly enters the large towns, in many of which on account of its services it is strictly protected from injury, and, having satisfied its appetite, seeks the repose it has earned, sitting with its feet extended in front in a most grotesque attitude.

A second and smaller species, Leptoptilus javanicus,  the Lesser Adjudant  has a more southern and eastern range; while a third, Leptoptilus Crumenifer, of African origin, and often known as the Marabou-Stork, gives its name to the beautifully soft feathers so called.  Related to the Adjutant storks are the birds known as Jabirus.


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