AppearanceThe Jabiru is the tallest flying bird found in South America and Central America, often standing around the same height as the flightless and much heavier American Rhea, and has the second largest wingspan, after the Andean Condor. The adult Jabiru is 120–140 cm long, 2.3–2.8 m across the wings, and can weigh 4.3–9 kg . Large males may stand as tall as 1.53 m . The beak, which measures 25–35 cm , is black and broad, slightly upturned, ending in a sharp point. 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 in appearance but the male is larger, which can be noticeable when the sexes are together. While it can give the impression of being an ungainly bird on the ground, the Jabiru is a powerful and graceful flier.
NamingThe name Jabiru has also been used for two other birds of a distinct genus: the Asian Black-necked Stork , commonly called "Jabiru" in Australia; and sometimes also for the Saddle-billed Stork of sub-Saharan Africa. In particular, Gardiner's Egyptian hieroglyph G29, believed to depict an ''E. senegalensis'', is sometimes labeled "Jabiru" in hieroglyph lists. The ''Ephippiorhynchus'' are believed to be the Jabiru closest living cousins, indicating an Old World origin for the species.
The proposed Late Pleistocene fossil stork genus ''Prociconia'' from Brazil might actually belong in ''Jabiru''. A fossil species of jabiru was found in the early Pliocene Codore Formation near Urumaco, Venezuela .
In Portuguese, the bird is called ''jabiru'', ''jaburu'', ''tuiuiu'', ''tuim-de-papo-vermelho'' and ''cauauá'' . The name ''tuiuiu'' is also used in southern Brazil for the Wood Stork .
StatusJabiru are widespread but not abundant in any area. They are considered a species of least concern by the IUCN, an improvement from a status of near-threatened in 1988. Jabiru gained protected status in Belize in 1973. Since then, there numbers in that area have slowly risen. They have been granted protected status by the U.S. Migratory Bird Act.
ReproductionThe nest of sticks is built by both parents around August–September on tall trees, and enlarged at each succeeding season growing to several meters in diameter. Nests are often deeper than they are wide, they can be up to 1 m wide and 1.8 m deep. Half a dozen nests may be built in close proximity, sometimes among nests of herons and other birds. The parents take turns incubating the clutch of 2 to 5 white eggs and are known to more territorial than usual against other Jabirus during the brooding period. Raccoons and other storks are occasion predators of jabiru eggs, but most nest predators appear to avoid these huge-billed birds and there are no known predators of healthy adult Jabirus. Although the young fledge around 110 days old, they often spending around another 3 months in the care of their parents. Because of this long length of time spent brooding, pairs have difficulty breeding in successive years. Less than half of active pairs in one season are active the next season. Only 25% of successful pairs are successful the next season. The lifespan average is 36 years.
FoodThe Jabiru lives in large groups near rivers and ponds, and eats prodigious quantities of fish, molluscs, and amphibians. It will occasionally eat reptiles, bird eggs 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. They feed in flocks and usually forage by wading in shallow water. Jabirus detect prey more through tactile sensation than vision. They feed by holding their open bill at a 45 degree angle to the water. When prey is contacted, the storks close their bill, draw it out of the water, and throw their head back to swallow. It is an opportunistic feeder. In one instance when House Mice experienced a population explosion in an agricultural area, several hundred Jabirus could be seen in each field feeding on the rodents . On rare occasions, Jabirus have been seen attempting to kleptoparasitize the two smaller storks it co-exists with, the Wood and Maguari Storks.
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