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Legends of the stork

Updated on June 19, 2013

Painted storks

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A bird goddess in the Romanian pantheon (and not only)

In Spring, the returning of the storks in Europe from the South Africa is a real event. I have often seen them on my ways, in their nests, flying or in swampy places, while walking slowly, like a thoughtful man, carefully, seeking for lizards, mice, insects and worms. They can move easily through the swamps with their long (and red) legs, the fingers being united by skin, in order not to sink in the mud.

Storks around the world

In Spring, the returning of the storks in Europe from the South Africa is a real event. I have often seen them on my ways, in their nests, flying or in swampy places, while walking slowly, like a thoughtful man, carefully, seeking for lizards, mice, insects and worms. They can move easily through the swamps with their long (and red) legs, the fingers being united by skin, in order not to sink in the mud.

Storks are faithful to the places they had their nests in the past (on houses, fences, pillars). Each Spring, storks return to the nests they have built in the previous year. If the nest is damaged due to the rain or snow, the birds repair it. Usually, the nests are bigger than we see them from a distance. They can measure up to two meters in height and two meters in length. No wonder that such a nest can reach up to 900 kg. It's actually big enough to allow other smaller birds (like sparrows or starlings) to build their own nests in it.

The male stork is one who hatches the eggs and then takes care of the babies. The responsibility is the highest because in only two months the babies should be able to fly with their parents to South Africa (storks have to travel about 6.000 - 8.000 km). When they get out of the eggs, the babies weigh about 45 grams, but only 40 days after this moment they reach 1.600 grams. It's interesting that these babies will spend their juvenile period in South Africa, and in the next year they will return in Europe.

In many countries (Egypt, Romania), "Mister on stilts" is protected. Traditionally, people think that it is a sin to kill a stork or to destroy its nest. This happens because these birds bring enough benefits for humans (like killing of the snakes, mice, frogs), but there is another motivation too. It is believed that an angry stork can burn a house down with the help of a coal brought in its beak. In ancient Thessaly, the punishment for killing a stork was death.

There are many legends related to storks, and some of them are quite interesting.

1. A Polish folktale tells us that many animals, like fogs, lizards, snakes, became so numerous that God put them in a sack having in mind that He must get rid of them. In that time, the stork was a human, not a bird. God asked him to empty the sack into the sea. The human (a tall one!) was so curious that he opened the sack before the right moment and all animals escaped. This is why God changed that man into a stork, in order to hunt forever those animals.

2. In ancient times, the stork lived only in Egypt and was blessed by God with a magnificent plumage. However, this bird had a great arrogance and felt superior to all the other birds. When time came for the animals to board the Ark of Noah, they were sorry they had to leave their homes, but accepted their fate with a lot of gratitude to Noah. The storks were the exception, they showed no gratitude, no humility. This was the reason why God took away their wonderful plumage and painted their wings with black. On the other hand this is why the storks wander back and forth every year between Europe and Africa.

3. But probably the best known legend of the stork is that related to the bringing of the babies. We all have seen images with storks carrying a baby to the new parents. It seems that in ancient Greek mythology the stork was actually a symbol of stealing a baby and carrying it away. Gerana, a beautiful Queen of the Pygmies, was transformed into a stork by Hera. Being a stork, Gerana tried to abduct her own child, Mopsus, whom she loved, but was constantly chased away by her former kin.

4. In other mythologies (Norse), the stork represents a life-long commitment to family values, because the stork is considered to be monogamous (but this is not always true). For Early Christians, the stork became a symbol of a chaste marriage.

5. In Egyptian mythology, the stork was associated with the human soul. The Egyptians linked the migratory behavior of the stork to the soul's departure from and return to a sleeping human.

6. And of course, how can I forget about the Greek fabulist Aesop (the 6th century BC), who wrote a wonderful story about a stork and a fox dinner.

7. But maybe the most wonderful legend about storks is the one related to baby Jesus. When all the animals came to see infant Jesus, they bow down in front of Him to pay respect. When the stork arrived, it saw Jesus lying on a hard bed with no pillow. The bird pulled out some of its feathers to make a soft and comfortable bed and a soft pillow for Jesus.

These are few reasons why the storks are beautiful and very loved birds all over the planet.

A beautiful pair

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White and impressive birds

White storks are large and impressive birds. The body length is about 100 cm, and the wingspan is up to 220 cm. When they are flying, their neck is directed a bit downwards.


When resting, storks just use one leg for standing. The other leg is up. Then they hold the head between the shoulders and put the long bill on the throat feathers, which are supported by air bags below the skin.

Mama stork in the nest

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Facts about storks

  • Storks can live on all the continents, except Antarctica. The most of them can be found in tropical regions and near water sources.
  • There are around 20 species of storks, the largest being the Marabou stork (4.9 feet tall, a wingspan of 10.5 feet). These storks weigh about 20 pounds and live in Asia, India, and Africa.
  • The smallest stork is the Hammerkop (two feet tall and weighing only a pound). Some researchers don't consider Hammerkop as a part of the Stork Family.
  • They eat fish, amphibians, small reptiles, shellfish, insects, sometimes rodents and moles.
  • A stork can live 20 to 30 years.
  • Some storks live in colony, some nest only in pairs.
  • The Jabiru stork is also called the black-necked stork and has coral colored legs.
  • Storks can make some interesting noise: they can hiss, honk, croak, squeal, whistle or clatter their beaks.
  • Storks usually lay 3 to 5 eggs.

The stork

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Did you know?

Before taking off, the storks make some jumps and only after this they start in the wind direction. Someone may rarely see a stork swimming, or taking off from the water. Old birds are dumb (really?), but they often clatter with their bills, using a lot of different tones and patterns. This is called communication.

Storks are wonderful birds indeed

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    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, these are truly beautiful birds. I would love to see some. You did a nice job on this piece.

    • Mihaela-2012 profile image
      Author

      Mihaela Raileanu 4 years ago from Bucharest, Romania

      Thank you very much! I will see some of them when Spring comes. They will come back at their old nests, I am sure about it.

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