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25 April 2007 @ 09:40 pm
The Greater Adjutants of Guwahati  
There aren't many known places in the world to see this bird. Apparently, it was once very common but now down to a few hundred individuals. Guwahati, the capital of the North-Eastern state of Assam has one of the best known places to see this mysterious bird - it's garbage dump. The fish market at Ulbari is that place. We were on our way to the Guwahati airport contemplating on a stop at the market to see this bird, but it looked like time was not on our side. So, we just decided to go on and scan the skies along the highway and if we were lucky, we'd catch a glimpse of the bird soaring.

Just as we entered Guwahati, the driver calmly told us to look at a large bird flying around and see if that was what we were looking for. He was right! We got out of the car and saw that there were many more and they seemed to be landing at a site a little off the highway. We decided to try and go for it and a little while later, we were on a muddy road with tons of garbage on either side. A little later we came across a group of Great Adjutants on a mound of garbage. As soon as we opened the doors, we were swarmed by flies and the smell of the place was revolting. The rolled-up windows had saved us from the filth for so long, but not anymore. For a moment, the place and the smell was forgotten for less than twenty feet away from us were a dozen of these five-foot storks. These were the largest wild birds I'd seen and to see them from that close was just fantastic. With the midday sun and haze and a sprinkling of cloud cover, it meant that we had ever-changing light conditions. It was tricky, but the camera did it's job with a burst of photographs but the clock was ticking faster than ever and we had to leave...






An adult Greater Adjutant Stork.




A group of Adjutant storks. Notice the white on their legs - that's because they defecate on their legs to keep the germs away. Strange habitat calls for strange measures!




As usual, cows are everywhere in India. The two storks are probably waiting for the cows to excavate something for them.







 
 
 
depontideponti on April 25th, 2007 01:31 pm (UTC)
One name of the lotus is "pankaja"...that which is born in filth. I don't know if these birds are born in filth, but much like lotuses in stagnant ponds, it's lovely to see these birds in the garbage! And defecating to keep away the germs is a new one on me...!
depontideponti on April 25th, 2007 01:34 pm (UTC)
Did you take the first picture through the window of the taxi? There seems to be a whitish streak in the middle...? And do juveniles also have that down-type feathers on the head?
Yathinyathin on April 25th, 2007 08:57 pm (UTC)
Nopes, all pics were taken from the outside. Strange that I cannot see the whitish streak. I think the head feathers (whatever little there is!) is on juveniles and adults, but will need to find out.
Shivakumarshivakumar_l on April 25th, 2007 02:15 pm (UTC)
Super shots guru -- its really looks so huge
btw 1 question why is the neck different from each other -- very evident in the second image -- one of them doesnt have that sagging also .. ( just curious )
sainath on April 25th, 2007 05:05 pm (UTC)
that .. i believe might be a pouch for food :)
Yathinyathin on April 25th, 2007 08:44 pm (UTC)
I guess it's something to do with age - the older ones have larger sacs perhaps.
Zeeshan Nofilzeeshanmn on April 25th, 2007 02:24 pm (UTC)
Guwahati, the capital of the North-Eastern state of Assam has one of the best known places to see this mysterious bird...

In my hometown Dibrugarh, there are three places (other than stray juveniles spotted here and there) where the bird is in numbers of around 15 each.
Yathinyathin on April 26th, 2007 10:53 pm (UTC)
That's very interesting, I was told that most of the sightings are in Kaziranga, Guwahati and about a small population in Tezpur. Still, I think this bird is largely restricted to just Assam now.
Zeeshan Nofilzeeshanmn on April 27th, 2007 01:24 am (UTC)
The bird is largely concentrated in Assam and Cambodia. The bird prefers marshes often, but food is a problem. Inevitably, it moves to areas like dumps where food is easier to scavenge. The bird is also known to migrate. A friend who is dedicated to saving these birds was recently back from Burma with his reports. The bird is common there too. One interesting thing, bortokula (a name is more from common usage, than slang as you pointed out, bortokula loosely means larger bald) eggs are eaten by humans too.

Your post made me nostalgic. I called up my friend to know about how well his haargila (the name most eligible to be an Assamese name for the bird; it means bone swallower) expedition is going. He is currently studying its breeding patterns in Nagaon (another district of Assam).
(Anonymous) on April 27th, 2007 04:53 am (UTC)
These majestic birds make even a garbage dump look good. Unfortunately, this species has become very range restricted now that its population is estimated at only about 500. A handful of well documented locations is its last stand against extinction - dumpsters and Deepor Beel in Guwahati, few dumpsters in Nagaon, Tezpur, Sibasagar and Dibrugarh. The only large population within a protected area is in Kaziranga (where its sightings are uncommon). And that is pretty much it. While Assam is blessed with extensive wetlands, the Hargila's population isnt increasing because nesting trees within these wetlands are being cut down. Ironically, dumpsters might be the reason these birds havent become extinct yet.

~Pritam Baruah.
(Anonymous) on April 27th, 2007 05:00 am (UTC)
Dumpster survival
These majestic birds make even a garbage dump look good. Unfortunately, this species has become very range restricted now that its population is estimated at only about 500. A handful of well documented locations is its last stand against extinction - dumpsters and Deepor Beel in Guwahati, few dumpsters in Nagaon, Tezpur, Sibasagar and Dibrugarh. The only large population within a protected area is in Kaziranga (where its sightings are uncommon). And that is pretty much it. While Assam is blessed with extensive wetlands, the Hargila's population isnt increasing because nesting trees within these wetlands are being cut down. Ironically, dumpsters might be the reason these birds havent become extinct yet.

~Pritam Baruah.
Yathinyathin on April 27th, 2007 05:25 am (UTC)
Re: Dumpster survival
Thanks for that info Pritam.
Praveen Garlapatipraveenkumarg on April 25th, 2007 04:33 pm (UTC)
Could make out about the rarity of these birds from your post. Good that you could capture them.
I could see the unbearable smell.
Ruth: Looking Leftlaruth on April 25th, 2007 04:56 pm (UTC)
How interesting and what funny looking birds (particularly that pouch on the front). Glad you manage to capture some lovely shots of them.
ajat: Andre Nelajat on April 25th, 2007 09:49 pm (UTC)
Oh God, so beautiful, they used to be hereabouts too, but the chemical stuffs have near decimated them ... It's likely they're still around in the outskirts ...
Yathinyathin on April 26th, 2007 10:51 pm (UTC)
I think Greater Adjutants are almost entirely restricted to Assam in India. Are you sure, they're not Lesser Adjutants? I've seen quite a few lesser Adjutants in North Bengal, but no Greater Adjutants.
Kadambari Devarajankadambarid on April 25th, 2007 11:29 pm (UTC)
Awesome- we used to live in Assam when I was really young...Will ask dad whether he has seen and photographed any of them...
Me too- (i) Thought the first pic was taken from the car,due to the white streak, then decided you would've atleast opened the window, the smells not withstanding ;)
(ii)Was wondering about the sacs...
Yathinyathin on April 26th, 2007 10:49 pm (UTC)
The streak, I think, is a minor land slide on the hills in the background. I think the sacs are mostly related to age and probably have some significance in domination. I'll try and find out and let you know if I do.
Just A Little Somethinganitab on April 26th, 2007 01:13 am (UTC)
we saw these too when we were entering guwahati. i asked my dad and he told me the local name (which i can't remember now!). strangely enough, i'd never noticed them when i lived in guwahati.
Yathinyathin on April 26th, 2007 01:16 am (UTC)
The driver told us that they called them: Bada Takla (for Greater Adjutant) and Chota Takla (for the smaller Lesser Adjutant) - I think it's more of a slang than actual Assamese names.
(Anonymous) on July 28th, 2010 04:03 am (UTC)
hey the assamese name for greater adjutant is hargila, meaning swallower of bones, and for lesser adjutant it is bortukula; neither of the local names have anything to do with taklus. Interestingly all the commentators have forgotten about the significant presence of the birds in Morigaon district, which has at least 5 breeding colonies, next only to nagaon.

-raj phukan
Yathinyathin on July 28th, 2010 01:57 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the info! :-)
Jayseakaredpirk on April 26th, 2007 01:15 am (UTC)
i must say...ive never seen such interesting bird photographs...and being a westerner whos only seen cows in green fields that last one is great!
Yathinyathin on April 26th, 2007 01:19 am (UTC)
Oh, we have cows everywhere in India - on the city streets, on the highways, in the garbage, in the parks, inside people's homes and in the green fields too.
Preethi: carefreefiveonehalf on April 26th, 2007 02:16 am (UTC)
I had always thought storks were white in colour, I guess the due to the cartoon images of storks bringing babies in their mouths..

They look so majestic, and so out of place on the garbage dumps.
zhenzhizhenzhi on April 26th, 2007 04:09 am (UTC)
wooooooooooooooooooow!!!!!! what amazing looking birds!
thank you! :-)
shahnaz_kimi on May 3rd, 2007 09:21 am (UTC)
wonderful photos yathin. I remember the smell so well even though it has been more than 10 years since I have been back in Guwahati....