| The Painted Stork – Exploring Ecology and Conservation in India | By Abdul Jamil Urfi | Pelagic Publishing | 2024 | Paperback | 191 pages, colour photos, colour illustrations, colour maps, colour tables | ISBN: 9781784274399 |

The Publisher’s View:

A charismatic and arresting bird, the Painted Stork inhabits the plains and wetlands of India and Southeast Asia. This near-threatened species provides a good model through which to explore a variety of ecology and conservation issues. As a colonial nester, it is also useful for considering questions related to evolution and the development of avian coloniality. The Painted Stork sometimes nests opportunistically in the middle of large cities – the Delhi Zoo colony, for instance, has been active since 1960. This offers a splendid opportunity to study the species at close range, as attested by this book’s lively photographic component.

The Painted Stork is an important indicator of its wetland habitats, which themselves are highly threatened. Since environmental toxins, particularly organochlorine pesticides, travel rapidly along aquatic food chains, the study of piscivorous birds like the Painted Stork assumes special significance. Equally vulnerable today are the nesting colonies, located in marshes, village reservoirs and the wider countryside, including in urban settings. Perhaps because their natural nesting areas are becoming scarce due to habitat loss, colonial waterbirds look for suitable sites in parks and gardens. Hence, the behaviour of this species reflects changes occurring in its environment.

Birds also help us monitor the effects of global climate change, and one of the most significant dimensions of the Painted Stork is its dependence upon the monsoon. How exactly do these seasonal rains govern the food cycles in wetlands? And what happens when the monsoon fails? Covering all aspects of Painted Stork ecology, behaviour, conservation and its relationship with humans, this accessible monograph contains a wealth of new insights.

The Author: Abdul Jamil Urfi has been researching the ecology and conservation of Painted Stork in India for more than 35 years, with a special focus on the colony at Delhi Zoo. A professor of environmental studies at the University of Delhi, he has published three previous books, including Birds of India: A Literary Anthology (2011). He is a member of IUCN’s stork, ibis and spoonbill species survival commission.

Fatbirder View:

I’ve been lucky enough to see Painted Storks, both as they puttered about on the edges of lakes and in their noisy mixed colonies. I also recall seeing them from a hotel window, they were in the middle of the River Sabarmati in the heart of the city of Ahmedabad. The river might have looked like an open sewer, but this didn’t deter the terns and herons et al that picked through the detritus in search of an edible morsel. In the pink light of dawn their rosy rear feathers stood out even more contrasting with the sludge grey of the water.

So, I was interested to find out more about the birds and their life histories, and I wasn’t disappointed. I also learned of the threat of agrichemicals and wondered how those birds now fared?

But this book is really a great deal more than a ‘species account’. Yes it covers the life and times of Painted Storks but in reference to them often talks about allied species and indeed many birds that share the land with them. It is as much about colonial nesting as it is about conservation as it is about the birds themselves. It takes in human interaction as well as nesting and rearing patterns.

The book is scholarly but immensely accessible. You will learn a lot about this species but inevitably lots about habitat and birdlife, conservation and urban dwelling wildlife.

Over and above the words and pictures I’m impressed with the production too. It has a pleasing design, but, thank goodness, the reader comes first. High contrast black text against a white background with a simple font large enough for my old eyes. This bucks a trend amongst some publishers to sacrifice readability to arty design. I’m sick and tired of picking up books, or browsing the web and finding grey on white print that is a struggle to read. It happens that I’ve been reviewing several volumes from Pelagic and none of them have fallen into that art for arts sake trap. Bravo!

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