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            Friday, September 7, 2007

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Jabiru Stork
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Jabiru Stork
Jabiru mycteria

The Jabiru Stork is a very rare bird and is endangered throughout it's range. One of the largest birds in the New World, the Jabiru stands 5 feet tall and has a wingspan of 8 feet. Its heavily bill is about 12 inches long and is perfectly designed to catch fish, frogs and snakes. It is the tallest flying bird found in South America, often standing around the same height as the flightless and much heavier American Rhea.

Recent studies have confirmed that Belize has the healthiest breeding population of jabirus for all of Central America. They arrive in Belize from Mexico in November and nest in the tall pines of the savannas and marshes of the Belizean lowlands. They remain in Belize until June or July, flying north with the first rains.

The largest number of jabiru counted in Belize is 24. Hunting and habitat destruction have decimated a once healthy population throughout the region. The Crooked tree Wildlife Sanctuary, just 33 miles north of Belize City has the largest population of Jabirus in Belize.

The plumage is mostly white, but the head and upper neck are featherless and black, with a featherless red stretchable pouch at the base. The sexes are similar, although the female is usually smaller than the male. While it is an ungainly bird on the ground, the Jabiru is a powerful and graceful flier.

The Jabiru lives in large groups near rivers and ponds, and eats prodigious quantities of fish, mollusks, and amphibians. It will occasionally eat reptiles and small mammals. It will even eat fresh carrion and dead fish, such as those that die during dry spells, and thus help maintain the quality of isolated bodies of water.

The nest of twigs is built by both parents around August–September (in the southern hemisphere) on tall trees, and enlarged at each succeeding season growing to several meters in diameter. Half a dozen nests may be built in close proximitiy, sometimes among nests of herons and other birds. The parents take turns incubating the clutch of 2 to 5 white eggs.

Photo courtesy Tanisha Tours              
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