Aussie ABC – J is for Jabiru!
|Close up of Jabiru at Lake Argyle, Western Australia|
Although non-birdwatching Aussies refer to stately and elegant Black-necked Stork as ‘Jabiru’, any twitcher* worth her/his salt will immediately recognise this to be technically incorrect. And will probably take great delight in boring you to death by telling you so – and why.
If unlucky enough to be on the receiving end, you’d hear that the similar South American Jabiru gets naming line honours as it was described and so named first.
Call me nostalgic, unconventional or just plain wrong, but to me the Black-necked Stork will always be Jabiru. Pre-Pilchard, when I lived in a hazy non-birdwatching daze that meant I could appreciate birds without knowing what they were called, the Jabiru was one of the few birds (along with the kookaburra and emu) that I could confidently identify.
|The same Jabiru in context – see if you can spot him (see below for help)! Lake Argyle Overflow, Western Australia|
‘Black-necked Stork’, on the other hand, while semi-accurate as a descriptive term lacks imagination. But as any pedantic twitcher (you’ll forgive my descent into tautology) will advise, this striking bird up to 150 cm (60 inches) high cannot be called ‘Australian Jabiru’ either, because it also occurs in South-East Asia!
|Jabiru in the crocodile infested Victoria River, Northern Territory|
Known to science as Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus (subspecies australis) and Australia’s only stork, those who care can tell female from male by the female’s yellow iris. This piece of information just may save you from an embarrassing loss at the next trivia night you attend. You’re welcome.
It’s easy to see why indigenous mythology describes the source of the Jabiru’s beak as a spear through a bird’s head. And it’s also easy to see why eating it’s flesh was considered taboo because spotting a stately Jabiru in some lonely, remote and crocodile-infested habitat, seemingly unaware of potential danger, is always a magical experience.
|Jabiru near Townsville, Queensland|
You’d think the Indigenous name ‘Karinji’ is FAR more evocative – and therefore suitable – than ‘Black-necked Stork’! Or is that just me?!
Despite officially abandoning the name ‘Jabiru’, our national attachment to it remains. The Queensland Tablelands Jabiru Safari lodge in the Mareeba Wetlands reserve is more than just a passing nod to the name –
JabiruBlack-necked Stork is a frequent visitor!
And ‘Black-necked Stork Safari lodge’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?!?!
Northern Territory mining town Jabiru is still memorable to Pilchard and I as being one of the few Territorian towns with a bakery, although others may recall it for different reasons. We left Jabiru one cool, winter morning for the world famous Yellow Waters dawn cruise where, high in a dead tree, a pair of nesting Jabiru distracted us from the crocodiles warming themselves in the sun.
The enigmatic Black-necked Stork epitomises the remote and lovely waterways of Northern Australia – and although hard-core twitchers will find this post insufferably and irritatingly incorrect, I’ll loudly and proudly continue to call them Jabiru!!
|Jabiru nesting, Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory|
* twitcher = birdwatcher
Want more information? Check out the other posts in my Aussie ABC series!!