Aussie ABC – J is for Jabiru!

Last Updated on September 15, 2014 by Red Nomad OZ

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!!
Did you spot him?  Jabiru circled in RED!

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    1. Great story and I really enjoyed reading it especially after dealing with a pedantic bird nerd who kept insisting I was wrong calling.the jabiru and jabiru. I’ve know them as jabiru for over 40 years having grown up in the NT and this pedantic person who’s probably never seen one tel me what I can call one is a joke.
      I agree 100% with you that this magnificent bird deserves a name more exciting than black necked stork.

      1. Hi SJ! So often the “correct” bird names are not what people know the bird as, and some bird names are changed quite frequently making it even more confusing! There should be an agreed “common name” which is what everyone knows the bird as, which would make it easy for us non-birders!

    2. Now when I hear the name Jabiru I shall have a very clear picture of what people are talking about. Great shots and informative post as usual.
      “Pedantic Twitcher”. LOL

    3. Hi there Red, long time no see! I love your informative post with beautiful shots, what an interesting looking bird and to me it looks like the name Jabiru suits it to a T.

      Now I want to check out the rest of your alphabet! I’ll get to it when the weather isn’t quite as nice and life has settled down a tad on this end.


    4. @darlin – Out of sight, out of mind, huh?!?! Here’s hoping you get heaps of cold weather really soon so you can do the whole alphabet!! Is that selfish???!!

    5. @Andrew – It was much more obvious on my photo viewer, but still hard to see! Just lucky I caught a glimpse of something black & white as we whizzed past!
      @Sallie – Yes, their heads look too big and the beak too heavy for their slender legs! But when you see them move, they’re surprisingly fast for such an ungainly bird!

    6. @Saucy Kod – Haha! I’m changing the world of birding … one reader at a time!!!
      @Sivinden – It’s always a thrill to see Jabiru/Black-necked Stork in the wild!
      @Rajesh – Do you have them too??
      @Ken G – I think you’d need a telescope instead of glasses! It was lucky I spotted it – just a flash of black & white as we whizzed past!
      @diane b – Well, so far the consensus is 100% for Jabiru!! The twitchers can all take comfort in the fact we are therefore 100% incorrect!!

    7. @Diane – so what IS your opinion, pray tell?!?! All the upright wading birds seem to have this formal elegance, don’t they?!
      @Joan Elizabeth – First and only time we’ve seen one!
      @PDP – There are no secrets with my photography. I have one camera only since the demise of my film camera – Olympus SZ-10 (14mp, 18x zoom) that I use for EVERYTHING! A lucky fluke, huh?!

    8. I say ” give me Jabiru Lodge anyday” – I like the explanation you gave and they are now incorrectly “Jabiru” to me. We have a similar bird here in Canada called Herons – they always amaze me. I love the photo in the trees at the nest Red – that is just beautiful. Great post.

    9. Whether it’s ‘official’ or not Red, I’m still calling them Jabiru’s..I can’t believe the clarity of your first image considering it’s so far away as to almost be indiscernible, what make of lens do you use or is it a ‘trade secret’ haha!

    10. I feel so informed that I can almost hazard an opinion on the whole Jabiru/Black-necked stork debate. 🙂 Wonderful! We had a couple of Blue herons that returned to the ranch year after year. So graceful and somehow . . . elegant.

    11. I´ve never seen that bird. But we stayed in one little town in the Asherton Tableland for several days cause they had a french baker at the little Coles with real “Brötchen”, hmmm!
      Do you mean something like that?
      German bread and breadrolls we really did miss on our trips throughout your beautiful country! The only thing we missed 🙂

    12. @Leovi – Thank you for your answer – that makes perfect sense!! And thanx for visiting – always a pleasure to see you!
      @TMWH – I have often thought about a pictorial bakery tour – but after awhile the endless shots of baked goods could get boring … not quite sure how to spice it up!!
      @Mary – HHHMMMmmm… tough choice … but, oh bummer, I don’t drink tea!!!! Look forward to it one day!!
      @Iris – Haha, when you find a good bakery, stay as close as you can!!! They are not so common in the Northern Territory – Victoria is the best place!
      @Al – I’m not so good with flowers either – I recently posted about West Australian wildflowers, and wouldn’t have a clue what most are called! Knowing the bougainvillea was a lucky fluke because it’s so common in the tropics!!

    13. @Beach Bum – Couldn’t agree more! Most scientific naming is about grovelling, one-upmanship and ego. Well, that’s MY view …
      @Digi-Irma – I have loved storks since I first read Meindert De Jong’s ‘The Wheel on the School’ from your wonderful country!
      @MJWC – Haha, they DO look very formal, don’t they?! It’s not a party for the smaller birds who are eaten by Jabiru though …
      @River – I had the benefit of a photo viewer – even so, it’s still difficult to make him out!! Let’s reclaim ‘Jabiru’ here and now!!

    14. @Andrew – I’ve put a new pic with the Jabiru outlined in red. It IS hard to see – but that is what the landscape looked like when I took the pic!!
      @Mark – And that, my friend, is why the unkind call twitchers ‘bird nerds’!!!
      @Windsmoke – see my response to Andrew above! I spotted it as we crossed a bridge over the river – but it was a lot harder to see when I stopped to take the pix on the other side!
      @Rubye – I haven’t yet met anyone who prefers ‘Black-necked Stork’!! Why do they give such dull names? WHY??!!
      @Dianne – Not sure you’ll find it in the SA bird book?? Let me know if you do!! They’re normally in northern OZ!

    15. Very nice birds, whatever their naming history 🙂 Thanks for identifying the bougainvillea on my blog, I’m terrible at identifying flowers.

    16. I learn something every time I visit here and I certainly am never bored. I’d love to meet you in person to share a cup of tea or a martini. I’d let you pick. Have a wonderful weekend. Blessings…Mary

    17. I like the name Karinji better! Although I think that when you mention a bakery, you really should take a moment to discuss the pastries there. So I can vicariously enjoy then with you!

      Sayyy– a pictorial tour of the pastries of Oz would be a great blog post…

    18. I stared at that picture for ages and still couldn’t spot him! Even in the red circled picture I can only just make him out.
      Jabiru is a wonderful name.

    19. I did not spot him until you showed me, but then,… these old eyes ain’t what they used to be.

      He kind of looks like he has a tux on with the black wings and white chest, maybe he is ready to Party!

      Great Post Red!

    20. You’d think the Indigenous name ‘Karinji’ is FAR more evocative…

      I’ve always thought names that originate from native peoples are far more fitting.

    21. I couldn’t find him without your help Red …. a very elegant bird and I can’t believe I’ve never heard of nor seen one of these beautiful birds before. Must check in my birds of SA book

    22. Totally agree, Black-Necked Stork is such a boring name for such a staely bird. They are always Jabiru’s to me. Great shots Red.

    23. I can only think that the jabiru’s legs are so skinny, they are unappealing to crocs. I’ve put my bathroom spectacles on, the strongest I have, and I still cannot see the jabiru. Not the smudge in the narrowest part of the channel of water? I will await someone saying, I can see it, and then others will say, I thought that was it.

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