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Storks. Bird Orders. Ciconiiformes-part-2

Updated on July 27, 2015

Saddle-billed Stork



In this series ,looking at Bird Orders, we look at the families and species within those orders.In this group we reviewed in Part-1 of the Ciconiiformes ,the herons and their Allies. In This article,part-2 ,we review the Storks.

The Storks are a very interesting race,whether we regard their size or their habits. In those countries where the rains are periodical,much of the country laid underwater for a time, and numerous animals remain left by the subsiding waters, which would taint the air if they were left to rot,the Storks perform an important job in the general economy of nature by ridding the land of them.

They are all more or less migratory,and, with the exception of the colder latitudes,are found on the low grounds in almost every part of the world.However, the true Storks are mostly confined to the eastern continent. There are two species that occur in Europe,the White Stork which is able to live in close proximity of man,exploiting buildings as nesting places and feeding extensively on refuge{garbage} tips. It has however, become under pressure from loss of freshwater habitat and the spread of intensive agriculture.

The Black Stork on the other hand,is a bird of forests and often nests on remote cliffs.

Oriental Stork.


Storks are capable of long journeys with a powerful flight.

Milky Stork Singapore
Milky Stork Singapore | Source

Wood Stork . Everglades National Park Florida.


The characteristics and habits of Storks.

The main characteristics are--the Bill is straight,stout,even,cylindrical in form,of a elongated cone. The lower mandible slightly bent up.The nostrils longitudinally cleft in the horny substance and placed in a groove. The eyes are surrounded with naked skin which does not communicate with the bill. The legs are long and furnished with four toes,of which the three anterior are connected at the base by a membrane,and the hind toe,its first joint resting on the ground. The wings are of moderate size.

Storks in the main live in marshy situations and feed principally on reptiles,frogs,and their spawn,as well as on fish,small mammals and even small birds. In many countries they were regarded as a cherished race and were protected on account of all the pests they destroy. They moult in the autumn and migrate in large bodies. the young of the first year do not differ materially in appearance from the full grown birds, but they may be recognised,on their return in spring,by the dull,black and white of their plumage. The sexes are similar in appearance.

Storks have no song or even a proper voice,howeever, when they are irritated,or otherwise strongly excited,they contrive to make a clanking sound,by beating the edges of their mandibles,which are very hard and strong, against each other,when they do this they place their head in a peculiar position.. They recurve it backwards,until it is nearly parallel with the back,and leaning on it. In this position the upper mandible is under-most,and held firm by the posture of the neck,while the lower mandible is upper-most, beats much more easily and forcibly against the other than if the bill was in the natural position, as in this case the weight of the mandible aids the stroke,while it acts against the other.

It does not appear that the muscles which move the under mandible,strong as they are, would be capable of performing this particular sort of cymbal playing,if the weight of the organ were not brought into assistance. As the bird brings its neck back into the normal position,the sound gets lower,and when it snaps with the bill in the natural way,no sound is produced.

Storks are birds of long flight and powerful wings and they rise high and proceed gracefully upon their long aerial journey. On the ground the walk is rather slow but somewhat stately their steps being long and measured. As is the case with most birds of this order,they carry the foot forward simultaneously with the leg and this sort of locomotion is owing to a particular system of articulation. To the same mechanism the Stork procures the faculty of being able to sleep upon one leg,holding the other bent,and often even suspended rectangularly.

European White Storks

Taken at Alsace ,France
Taken at Alsace ,France | Source

A look at the Species,commencing with the White Stork

The White Stork Cinconia cinconia ,formerly Ciconia alba, is,as its common name suggests mainly white in its plumage. The orbits are naked and crimson The quills and upper-tail coverts are dusky green. The irides are brown and the feathers on the breast long and pendulous. They are about three and a half feet long. The young have the black of the wings tinged with brown and the bill dusky red.

Habitats and Lifestyle--- From the familiarity of their disposition #,and its other moral habits,the Stork is one of the most popular of littoral birds,and has been generally regarded as the friend of man,attached to his dwellings,nesting on the roofs and chimneys,the banks of the most frequented rivers,in cultivated fields and almost in gardens,not even shrinking from the bustle of crowded cities,and takes up its abode in towns and generally welcomed and respected.

In the Netherlands the bird was protected,because it checks the multiplication of reptiles in the marshes and humid flats. Arabs too,treated it with the most hospitable regard. And the Turkish people and other peoples of the eastern countries considered it a sacred bird which they were forbidden to kill.

White Stork


A White Stork's nest in Turkey


The White Stork and her young.

The White Stork shows a great affection towards her young. She feeds them for a considerable period,and stays by their sides until they are capable and strong enough to defend themselves. When they begin to flutter about their nests,she bears them on her wings,and protects them from any danger. There is on record a female's loyalty to her young.

" In the town of Delft,in 1836,when a fire broke out in a house that had a Stork's nest on it,containing young that were unable to fly. The old Stork returning with some meat for them,and seeing the danger, in which they were exposed,the fire having almost reached the nest, made several attempts to save them,but, finding all in vain. She at last spread her wings over them and in an endearing attitude expired with them in the flames."

If on their return find their former nest deranged or even demolished,they repair or rebuild,with sticks ,rushes and other plants that grow in moist situations. It is usually placed on high roofs,the battlements of towers,power pylons,sometimes in the tops of tall trees on the banks of streams,or on the projection of a precipitous rock.

In France it was customary to lay cart- wheels on the roofs of houses to induce them to build on them.In Holland boxes were placed on the roofs of houses for the same purpose. Nowadays structures such as the one shown in the image above are created for the birds.

The clutch consists of tow.three or four eggs of a yellowish white colour,larger than those of a Goose, but the shell is not so thick. the male sits on them for a while if the female is off in search of food,. The young make their appearance after about a moth's incubation,when the parents diligently search for food,and on return disgorge the food from their gullet or stomach.One or the other parent always stays with the chicks.

When the young break through the shell,they are covered with a brownish down,and their legs are so weak that they are not able to move around the nest in any other way than by shuttling about on their knees. When their wings begin to acquire strength,their mothers accompany them in easy flights.

In some places Storks nest in numbers but they always live in perfect harmony. At Bagdad, there were once hundreds nesting on the houses,the walls and trees,and among the ruins of Persepolis,there was a Stork's nest on the top of every nodding fragment and mouldering column.

White Stork nest with young.

Taken in Holland
Taken in Holland | Source

Wood Storks in flight

Originally posted to Flickr uploaded to Commons via Amada44
Originally posted to Flickr uploaded to Commons via Amada44 | Source

Movement of the White Stork.

About the month of August they begin to move from their more northerly haunts,and they move sooner in the moist and cold seasons,than in the dry and warm ones. Previous to their departure they assemble in numerous flocks upon some plain.Sometimes they meet ,break up, and meet again, before their final departure.

When they do move it is in perfect silence and often during the night,and they also arrive in silence,so neither the beginning or the ending of their journey is often noticed. They rise rapidly to a great height,and they utter no sound while on the wing,they are seldom observed when passing over the plains,but on mountains they are more easily seen. When on the wing it pushes its head straight forward,with the feet extending backwards. It returns to Alsace {France} in February,to Switzerland during the course of March and to Germany in May,but it very rarely visits the UK.

Black Stork. Ciconia nigra.

Taken at the Coltswold Wildlife Park,Oxfordshire England.
Taken at the Coltswold Wildlife Park,Oxfordshire England. | Source
Image taken in Spain and originally posted to Flickr.
Image taken in Spain and originally posted to Flickr. | Source

The Black Stork. Ciconia nigra

The Black Stork, Ciconia nigra,is about 35-41 inches long {90-105 cm} and weighs between 2.5-3 kg. {five and a half -six and a half pounds.}The upper part of the plumage is blackish with metallic reflections.,and the lower part of the breast and the belly white.The naked space around the eyes and that on the neck and the bill is crimson,and the feet are a deep red.

The colours of the young are different,the upper parts being blackish brown,with reflections. The feathers on the head and neck,brown,with reddish borders,and the naked skin around the eyes and on the neck ,and also the feet are olive green. In consequence of this different colouring it was sometimes described as a different species,under the name of 'Brown Stork'.

Although these two species agree in their general characters,the habit of the Black stork is in many respects the reverse of the White stork. Like the white it is a ranging migrant bird, however, instead of resorting to towns and inhabited places,it seeks those that are lonely and sequestered. Its haunts are remote and inaccessible marshes and the borders of lakes which are seldom visited.

In the more sequestered parts of the Alps,it may be encountered on the borders of the waters,where it subsists,at least in part, by fishing. It tends to hover over the surface,and occasionally plunges down to catch a fish or other prey. It not only shuns the haunts but also the countries frequented by its congeners.

It builds in trees,in the depths of the forest,and,as is the case with several other larger birds in this division of the order,it appears to prefer fruit to any other trees,no doubt because it can stand on the horizontal branches which these trees send out, much better than the sprays of Deciduous trees.

The eggs which number 2-4 are of a dullish greenish-white,with some blotches of brown,which do not appear to be constant. Although,as previously mentioned, they will take fish,this is not their principle resource. They feed upon reptiles,mollusc, insects,the smaller ground mammals and also upon any animal remains and offal they can procure.

On their long journeys this species also flies high,ascending upwards until despite of their large size,they are barely visible or even invisible to the naked eye.

The American Stork Ciconia maguari


The American Stork. Ciconia maquari

This species would be more correctly named the South American Stork, inhabiting as it does ,Argentina, Colombia, French Guiana and other south American countries and also the Falkland Islands,

The natural habitat of this species is grassland,seasonal flooded lowland grassland,swamps and pasture land. It is also a close relative of the White Stork.

Wood stork nesting colony.

Taken in Georgia USA
Taken in Georgia USA | Source

The Wood Stork Mycteria americana.

The Wood stork is placed in the genus Mycteria and given the species name of americana. It is a large bird of the order Ciciniidae and was once referred to as the 'Wood Ibis',even though it is not an Ibis. In 2014 it was classed as a threatened species by the USFWS.

It stands some 33-35 " tall with males typically weighing 5.5-7.3 pounds. It appears to be all white from a distance, however, the head is dark brown and the face is naked of a blackish colour. The thick down turned bill is dusky yellow colour. The legs are blackish grey and the feet are pink. In flight the trailing edges of the wings are black,in flight the black is very noticeable.

This is a sub-tropical,tropical species that breeds in much of South America, central America and the Caribbean. The Wood stork is currently the only one that breeds in North America. They build a large structure for their nest where the female will deposit 3-5 eggs. The eggs are incubated for 27-32 days by both parents and only one brood is raised in a season. The adults need to guard the nest and eggs against Crows,Vultures,Grackles and striped Skunks. It is thought that Raccoons are the main predators of their nests.

Wood Stork Mycteria americana

Taken at Tarpon Springs Florida USA
Taken at Tarpon Springs Florida USA | Source

Abdim's Stork Ciconia abdimii


Other species of Stork in the genus Ciconia

Abdim's Stork C abdimii, is a species of eastern Africa,Ethiopia,and South Africa.

The Woolly-necked Stork {Bishop's Stork} Ciconia episcopus is a widespread tropical species which breeds in Asia from India to Indonesia and also in Africa.

Storm's Stork,Ciconia stormi. is a bird of Sumatra, Borneo and the Malaysian peninsular. This species is listed as endangered.

Oriental Stork . Ciconia boyciana, is a large white Stork with black wings feathers and was once treated as a sub-species of the White Stork. Once encountered in Japan .Korea,Russia and China. It is now considered to be extinct in Japan and the Korean peninsular,it is also classed as endangered.

Oriental Stork. Ciconia boyciana


Storm's Stork. Ciconia stormi.

Taken at Zoo Miami USA
Taken at Zoo Miami USA | Source


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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi Deb,

      hope you see your Wood stork. Only the small birds such as the Swift,and of course the Cuckoo leave us early. The heron,s and the smaller Egrets tend to stay with us too, in the south of the country. Thank you for your kind words. Best wishes to you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      This is all excellent material. I have never seen the Wood Stork, though it should be possible in my travels. It was hoped that we would see a few on High Island or in the area when we were in Texas over the spring, but that was not the case. In the meantime, I will keep my eyes and ears open. Has migration begun in your area yet?

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      hello Devika, I am glad you enjoy the birds appreciate your visit. Best wishes to you.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Beautiful photos! I enjoy watching and listening to birds.


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