Black-necked Stork eating snake

To: "Val Curtis" <>, "Birding-Aus" <>
Subject: Black-necked Stork eating snake
From: "Greg" <>
Date: Wed, 26 Jul 2006 21:49:15 +1000
Hi Val,

I am studying the Black-necked Stork and am presently writing my PhD thesis on the species. Snakes are listed as having been recorded in the diet of the Stork, particularly file snakes in Northern Australia. I have examined photos of 'snakes' being eaten by storks which have in fact, on closer inspection, been seen to be eels and most reports of 'snakes' being eaten in New South Wales are likely to be of eels. A wriggling eel can be very snake-like. However, I was contacted by Hans Lutter and June Harris, who also viewed the feeding stork and, as you say, there was general agreement that it was a snake and not an eel. It was most likely a Red-bellied Black Snake. The fact that it was caught near a log away from the water also supports the ID as a snake. Storks will eat any animal prey available ranging from insects up to large eels, fish, tortoises and even birds. I saw an adult male eat an Australasian Grebe, after bashing it vigorously to tenderise it. In India they feed on Eurasian Coots. They would not encounter snakes too frequently during hunting as they feed almost exclusively in water where snakes, other than file snakes, only occasionally venture.

Re. the one dark, one pale eye - as the bird was an immature/sub-adult its eyes may have been in the process of changing from dark brown to yellow. One eye may have been more advanced than the other. There was an adult bird observed in the Manning Valley a couple of years ago with one dark and one pale iris. It was locally referred to as the 'hermaphrodite stork'.

The iris colour of storks can be difficult to determine, especially in poor light and a distance. Closing the nictitating membrane over the eye can make a male look like it has a pale eye. The number of observers and the time spent watching this particular stork would support the fact that it did, indeed, have one pale and one dark eye.


Greg Clancy
University of New England
National Marine Science Centre

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