BEST SEEN AT: Guwahati
STATUS: Schedule I/Endangered
GOOD TO KNOW: It is the heaviest stork in the world
YOU WOULDN’T expect to find one of the world’s rarest birds atop a rubbish heap. But given the destruction of its preferred habitat — wetlands and marshy areas — and the fact that it feeds on carrion, that’s where you are most likely to see the greater adjutant. It owes its sobriquet to the British, who were reminded by its deliberate, erect gait of military adjutants. This stork won’t win any beauty pageants, with its pendulous neck pouch and bare head, but it earned its repute as a ‘competent municipality worker’ when a young British officer noted in the mid-18th century that “the only efficient scavengers were the adjutants and so great was the dependence placed on the exertions of these creatures that the young cadets were warned that any injury done to them would be treated as gross misconduct.” Once found in abundance from Pakistan to Indonesia, its breeding population is now restricted to Assam, Bhagalpur (Bihar) and Cambodia. No more than 1,000 survive, as they are increasingly threatened by polluted and degraded wetlands and the loss of feeding and nesting sites.
Prerna Singh Bindra