Milky Stork is a stork species mainly found at the coastal mangroves of some South East Asian countries. Earlier was grouped under the genus "Ibis", later it was placed under the genus "Mycteria" as for their similarities with other stork species in the genus. The term "Mycteria" means snout or "nose" in Ancient Greek; "cinerea" means "ashy coloured" in Latin, which is rather confusing as this stork appears white. There are cases whereby the term "cinerea" being used for describing "whitish" colours of some plants and animals as well.
"This species was first known to me through in 1996 my first bird guide book "Pengenalan Burung-Burung Malaysia" published by World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia (1989). It was described that the population of Milky Stork is rapidly declining and the last strong hold is Kuala Gula sanctuary. At that time, I was in doubt whether I would be able to see this bird in the wild before its too late."
Milky Storks are slightly smaller than Painted Storks. Adult storks appear in white with black flight feathers and tails. Bare facial skin is orange-red with irregular black blotches. Bill is yellow. During breeding season, the facial skin appears in wine red color, which fades to its original color soon after the courtship. Bill turns into deep yellow and legs will be in deep magenta during the courtship. Immature birds look similar to those of Painted Storks. Head, neck and wing coverts are pale brown, with darker flight feathers and tail. Hybridization due occur, mostly recorded in captivity. The hybrids of Milky and Painted storks, with some black markings on their upper wing coverts and lacks the pinkish tinge on its tertial and inner secondary feathers. Some has much paler upper wings compared to those Painted Storks.
|A free ranging Milky Stork at Taiping Lake Garden|
|Immature Milk Stork|
Status and Distribution:
Uncommon localized resident of Peninsular Malaysia. Kuala Gula (Perak) sanctuary was its stronghold once. Free ranging Milky Storks can be seen at Taiping Lake Garden (Perak), as a result of successful breeding program done by Taiping Zoo. Milky Storks are also seen in small numbers (mostly flock along with Painted Storks) at Johor (Tanjung Piai, and Sungai Danga), Selangor (Shah Alam Lake Garden), Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Malacca (Sungai Putat).
Milky Storks can be at times confused with its close relative, the Painted Stork. This was seen in some recorded observation in some webpages. Milky Storks lacks the black markings on its wing coverts and the pinkish tinge on its tertial feathers of Painted Storks. Underwing plumage also different from those Painted Storks; Painted Stork's flight feathers are black, with black and white markings on lesser and median underwing coverts which cross over its chest. As for Milky Storks, the lesser and median underwing coverts are white. In side by side comparison, Milky Storks appear smaller than Painted Storks.
|Comparison between the underpart of Milky Stork (Top) and Painted Stork (Bottom)|
Moves and forages in flocks. Also flocks along with Painted Storks. Fish is their main diet. Those Milky Storks occurs along coastal mangroves are recorded to consume mainly on mudskippers. The storks found at Taiping Lake Garden were seen taking fish along with small snakes and frogs. Preys are captured by sense of touch and also by visual searching. Hunting mechanisms of Milky Storks that had been observed are:
1. Groping - It walks slowly through shallow water while the bill is submerged partially in the water, often draw its bill in an arc side to side. It then rapidly shuts the mandibles as soon as the prey touches the groping bill. This typical hunting method is also known as "active tactolocation". Sometime the stork stands stationary, waiting for the prey to make contact with its opened mandibles, which is termed as "passive tactolocation".
2. Direct Probing - With partially opened mandibles, the bill is directly probed into holes on mudflats to capture prey in the mud.
3. Prey Herding - Milky Storks also cooperatively flush prey into shallower water in flocks, which adds more success rate in their hunt. It uses its feet to "agitate" and drive out the fish from its hide at the water edge, which later captured in between its gaped bill.
Once captured, the prey is swallowed whole after some tossing.
|Groping for prey|
|A Milky Stork stirring the grasses with its feet at the water edge to drive the prey out from its hide|
|Milky Stork x Painted Stork Hybrid at Tanjung Ketapang, Johor. (Photo by: Ahmad Taufik)|
|Population Trend of Milk Storks at Matang Mangrove Forest from 1983 to 2006|