Painted storks are large waders found in the wetlands of the plains of tropical Asia. Their distinctive pink flight feathers of the adults give them their name. These beautifully colored birds have a heavy yellow beak with a down-curved tip that gives them a resemblance to an ibis. Males and females appear alike but the males of a pair are usually larger than the female.
Painted storks are widely distributed over the plains of Asia. They are found south of the Himalayan ranges and are bounded on the west by the Indus River system where they are rare and extend eastwards into Southeast Asia. Painted storks are absent from very dry or desert regions, dense forests, and the higher hill regions. They prefer freshwater wetlands in all seasons, but also use irrigation canals and crop fields, particularly flooded rice fields during the monsoon.
Painted storks are not migratory and only make short-distance movements in some parts of their range in response to changes in weather or food availability or for breeding. These birds are highly gregarious and feed in groups in shallow wetlands, crop fields, and irrigation canals. Painted storks feed mainly on small fish which they sense by touch while slowly sweeping their half-open bill from side to side while it held submerged. They walk slowly and also disturb the water with their feet to flush hiding fish. They forage mainly in the day but may forage late or even at night under exceptional conditions. After they are fed Painted storks may stand still on the shore for long durations. Like other storks, they are mostly silent but clatter their bills at the nest and may make some harsh croaking or low moaning sounds at the nest.
Painted storks are monogamous and form pairs. They breed on trees either in mixed colonies along with other water birds or by themselves. The breeding season begins in the winter months shortly after the monsoons. In northern India, the breeding season begins in mid-August while in southern India the nest initiation begins around October and continues till February and or even until April. The female lays 1 to 5 eggs and incubates them for about a month. The chicks are altricial; they are born naked and with closed eyes. To feed nestlings, parents regurgitate fish that they have caught and these are typically smaller than 20 cm long. The fledging period is nearly two months and reproductive maturity is generally reached at about 4 years of age.
The main threats to Painted storks include habitat loss and agricultural pollution, disturbance from human activities, hunting of adult birds, and collection of eggs and newly hatched chicks.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total Painted stork population size is around 25,000-35,000 individuals or 16,000-24,000 mature individuals. This includes 25,000 individuals in South Asia and 1-10,000 individuals in South-East Asia. Currently, this species is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.