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Interesting Facts About Serbia's White Storks
The white stork is majestic, graceful and revered by many.
The European White Stork
The European White Stork is one of the most widely recognized birds in the world. It has the distinction of fame through it's myths and legends, depicted in fables and artwork.
It is in the Ciconia genus of birds in the stork family, specifically the Ciconia ciconia species.This species is white in color except for the black wing tips and red bill and legs. It is the largest of all stork species.
These storks are carnivorous and prey on small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, fish, and other small birds. Their lifespan averages 15-20 years in the wild. In captivity, they can live as long as 30 years or longer. The oldest white stork in captivity was recorded at 48 years old.
The white stork is a migratory bird. It has broad wings needed to fly very long distances and to use warm air formed over land for flight. Since it depends on thermal air for flight, it avoids flying over large areas of the sea and has established migratory routes to ensure successful migration.
From March through October, the white storks will homestead themselves in Northern Europe. The largest populations are found in the Balkans, Portugal, Spain, Poland, and Ukraine. They prefer open grasslands and wet marshes to forested areas. During the winters of Northern Europe, the storks spend this time in parts of Africa. In early spring, they once again begin their long flights north for breeding season.
White storks are striking in their pose and colors.
Serbia's White Storks
One country in which the white stork makes it's home in summer is Serbia, particularly in the Vojvodina region. This region is rich in resources for the storks and provides an ideal habitat with its large spans of agricultural land and wetlands.
Every ten years, the Bird Protection and Study Society of Serbia conducts a census. They take a count of the stork population in known breeding areas with the help of it's members and other volunteers. The information is used to monitor any changes in population and breeding patterns and decide what conservation measures need to be taken for the bird's protection. According to their website, about 40% of the white stork population is located in the Tamis River floodplain in Northern (Vojvodina) Serbia. Conservation efforts are concentrated in this area due to the large population of storks and the increasing agricultural and infrastructure developments occurring that could adversely affect the ecosystem. They also conduct other conservation projects in all areas of Serbia with assisted funding from other bird and nature conservation organizations from countries such as Germany and Hungary.
Breeding and Nesting
The white stork's nest is a massive one. Some exceed six feet in diameter and weigh hundreds of pounds.It is made up mainly of sticks, twigs and branches. However, they can contain cloth, mud or other debris the stork deems necessary for his sturdy home. The nests are used year after year with some nests being reported to exceed a century in age. Storks will return to the same nest for years.
While the birds are wintering in Africa, the nests remain empty but intact. Storks return to their same nest each spring. The male arrives first to prepare and make any needed repairs to the nest prior to the female's arrival. Breeding takes place from March through April. Storks are generally monogamous and will breed with the same mate for years, however, if a new male arrives to the nest first and succeeds in winning "first dibs" on the nest, the female will breed with the new male.
They nest mainly in solitaire or sometimes in colonies. They are more often located in villages or farm land but sometimes in cities.
Their large nests can be seen atop of electrical poles, housetops and chimneys. It is a welcome sight and cause for celebration to see the storks arrive to the region, signaling warmer days and the awakening of nature. However, the danger to the storks is great when they choose to nest atop an electrical tower. The risk of electrocution is always present. Because of this, some conservation groups are conducting relocation of nests to man made concrete posts created especially for this.
Baby storks with parent
The female lays an average of four to five eggs each season but it can be as little as one egg. This can depend on the climate and availability of food and water resources of the season.Once the eggs are laid, both the male and female stork share incubating duty. The young storks hatch after about 34 days. By May of each year, the little heads of baby storks can be seen peeping over the top of the massive nests with one or both parents standing guard. Both the parents feed the babies until the age of 8-9 weeks. At that time, they are considered a fledgling and may start to venture from the nest, returning each day as they will still greatly depend on the parents for feeding.
The young will be mature enough for breeding at the age of four years.
Myths and Legends of the White Stork
One of the more popular myths regarding storks is that they are responsible for bringing a newborn baby to a home. Children from all over received this explanation to the question "where do babies come from?"
One theory of the legend's origin is thought to have originated during Pagan times. Birthrates were high during that time and most births occurred during spring which also coincided with the spring arrival of storks. Homes that desired a baby would place treats in windows to entice a stork to visit and thus deliver a baby. Several variations of this myth exist depending on the country. In some cultures, it is not just a myth, but a belief, that the stork has a direct correlation to babies and their health. These beliefs are due to superstitions and some connections to religion.
Good and Bad Luck
In Slavic country folklore, it is thought that the stork carries good luck and happiness to the home. It is especially a good sign if a stork builds it's nest on the roof or chimney of a home and many people today will try to encourage a stork to nest on their home. It is also believed that the stork will keep the home from burning down. Killing a stork is believed to bring bad luck and misfortune not only to the person who killed it, but to the whole community.
Other White Stork Symbolism
- White storks symbolize long life in ancient China
- They are a symbol of godliness in ancient Egypt
- In North America, storks symbolize love
- Over several countries and cultures, storks symbolize: purity, fidelity,creativity, and prosperity
Storks on your roof is a good thing.
White Storks on Film
The following video is an excellent documentary about the white stork. It goes into greater detail about the intricate life and habits of these birds and showcases them in various places in the world. The narration and footage is beautiful and educational.