News from the Field

Juvenile Black-necked Stork crashes morning coffee at Piccaninny Plains

20 Apr. 2021
Sally Gray/AWC

It’s not uncommon to have a friend who regularly stops by unannounced, crashes morning coffee and clears out the fridge, unless that friend is a juvenile Black-necked Stork who wanders in and out of your home as though he were part of the family.

That’s the curious and amusing situation managers Sally Gray and Graham Woods at Piccaninny Plains Wildlife Sanctuary in Cape York have happily dealt with since October last year, with the arrival of Fred – the sanctuary’s newest and self-invited resident.



The lovable waterbird colloquially referred to as a jabiru made his way to the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) sanctuary after five weeks of rehabilitation with volunteer wildlife rescue group Weipa Wildlife Care. He was found late August injured on the side of the road and nursed back to strength. When Fred was ready to fly again, he was transported to Piccaninny Plains Wildlife Sanctuary for release.


Fred The Black Necked Stork Joining Piccaninny Plains Wildlife Sanctuary's Manager For Morning Coffee Sally Gray/AWC
Fred the Black-necked Stork joins Piccaninny Plains Wildlife Sanctuary’s Sally Gray for morning coffee



Situated in the middle of Cape York Peninsula in Far North Queensland, Piccaninny Plains Wildlife Sanctuary contains a vast network of wetlands, providing a haven for resident and migratory waterbirds, as well as fresh and saltwater crocodiles, aquatic snakes, over 20 species of frogs, freshwater crabs, turtles and 30 species of fish. It’s the perfect place for a young, Black-necked Stork.


Fred Being Released At Piccaninny Plains Wildlife Sanctuary After Five Weeks Of Recovery Sally Gray/AWC
Fred being released at Piccaninny Plains Wildlife Sanctuary after five weeks of recovery


Everyone waved goodbye as Fred took off to new heights but less than 24 hours later, he was spotted roaming around a dam five kilometres from the sanctuary homestead. The following day he was at the end of the driveway and before the end of the week, he was confidently wandering into Graham and Sally’s kitchen as they ate dinner.

Fred seems to thoroughly enjoy his newfound home, which is carefully managed by AWC to reduce feral animal populations and improve fire patterns, so much so that he’s now considered a permanent resident of the sanctuary as well as Sally and Graham’s home.


Fred, Just Another Member Of The Piccaninny Plains Wildlife Sanctuary Family Sally Gray/AWC
Fred, just another member of the Piccaninny Plains Wildlife Sanctuary family


“Fred the curious jabiru is sharing our space!” explained Sally Gray, AWC Sanctuary Manager at Piccaninny Plains Wildlife Sanctuary. “He has taken to turning up every morning from his mystery overnight roost to join us for coffee and he likes to hang out with Graham in the workshop.”

“It’s incredible behaviour for a wild-born bird,” Sally added.


Fred Watching Sally The Sanctuary Manager As She Makes Her Breakfast Sally Gray/AWC
Fred watching Sally the sanctuary manager as she makes her breakfast


Officially welcoming Fred to the 165,000-hectare wildlife sanctuary, AWC Ecologist Eridani Mulder banded and registered him with the Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme. By doing so, Fred is making an important contribution to our understanding of his species as one of only 14 Black-necked Storks to be included on the register. The band will allow scientists and birdwatchers to identify Fred and record his movements as he grows, providing further insights into Australia’s only native species of stork.

For more information on the work conducted to conserve threatened Australian species at Piccaninny Plains Wildlife Sanctuary, click here.

Australia’s wildlife needs our help now more than ever. Thank you for your support, which is enabling AWC to restore populations of native animals around Australia.

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Wayne Lawler/AWC
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