White Stork

White Stork

Kingdom
Phylum
Class
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Ciconia ciconia
Population size
700-704 Thou
Life Span
20-35 yrs
WEIGHT
2.3-4.5 kg
HEIGHT
100-125 cm
LENGTH
100-115 cm
WINGSPAN
155-215 cm

The White stork is a large wader. They have a ruff on their chest, composed by long feathers and used by the birds during the courtship rituals. Its overall plumage is white, contrasting with black flight feathers and patches on their wings. The black coloration of their plumage is a result of pigment melanin and carotenoids, found in their usual diet. They have black band, surrounding their eyes and blunt, nail-shaped claws. Sexes are similar in appearance, though females are somewhat smaller than males. Adult individuals have a long neck, red pointed bill and long red legs. In addition, their feet are partially webbed.

Distibution

The preferred habitat of these birds is agricultural fields, pastures, meadows, open wetlands, savannas and steppes. They inhabit temperate areas with shallow, standing water. White storks are found across Europe, Asia Minor, northern part of Africa and the Middle East. By the winter months, the birds migrate into tropical regions of Africa, some parts of the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.

White Stork habitat map

Habits and Lifestyle

White storks are diurnal and non-territorial birds. They typically gather into loosely structured groups. At the breeding season, they nest in small groups, constructing the nests far from each other. Usually, their nests are located in trees as well as on top of buildings or other constructions. During the breeding season, non-breeding birds form groups of 40-50 individuals. During their annual migration and in their winter range, the birds gather into large groups of hundreds or thousands of storks. When migrating, they frequently ride thermals and use patterns of rising air.

Diet and Nutrition

Bing carnivore, the bird consumes various animal species, found in shallow water and on the ground. White storks consume fish, frogs, snakes, rodents, lizards, crustaceans, toads, tadpoles, spiders, scorpions as well as small mammals. They will also eat chicks and eggs of bird species, nesting on the ground.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
March-April
INCUBATION PERIOD
33-34 days
INDEPENDENT AGE
8-10 weeks
BABY NAME
chick
BABY CARRYING
2-5 eggs

These birds have monogamous system, mating once in a lifetime. Mating season takes place in spring, typically form March to April. Makes storks return to the breeding grounds a few days prior to females, enlarging the nests, left from the previous season. Courtship rituals include soft cooing calls as well as loud warnings to scare away intruders. After mating, the female lays 2-5 eggs with intervals of 2 days. Both parents take part in the incubation process, which lasts 33-34 days. When the chicks hatch out, both male and the female feed the young by rotation. The chicks fledge, reaching the age of 58-64 days. Then, around 7-20 days after fledging, the chicks are independent. The white storks start breeding at the age of 3-5 years.

Population

Population threats

This wader suffers from the alteration of its wetland habitat. During the winter, the birds are affected by desertification, drought and use of pesticides, which greatly reduce available prey items, causing food shortages. Nesting on buildings, the birds suffer from the reduction of suitable nest-sites due to new architectural solutions. In some areas of their range, White storks occasionally collide with electric wires. In addition, the birds are hunted for sport and food, usually during their migration into their wintering grounds.

Population number

According to IUCN Red List, the overall population of the White stork is increasing and estimated at 700,000-704,000 individuals. Meanwhile, the population in Europe is estimated between 224,000 and 247,000 pairs. On the IUCN Red List, the species is classified as Least Concern (LC).

Ecological niche

Preying upon various animals, they control number of these species’ populations. The white storks largely associate with humans. Thus, in agricultural lands, the birds benefit farmers by killing pests, while in the Palearctic ecozone of their range, they inhabit areas, chosen by humans as agricultural lands.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • This bird has had a notable impact on human culture. According to a myth, the white stork brings babies. The bird is also a symbol of fertility and luck.
  • In Hebrew, the species is called "chasidah", which means "merciful" or "kind".
  • The bird appears in two fables of the ancient Greek story-teller Aesop - ‘The Fox and the Stork’ and ‘The Farmer and the Stork’.
  • Normally, White storks are not afraid of human. In Europe, these birds usually construct their nests on top of buildings. In Germany, a stork nest of a building was considered to bring good luck, protecting from fires. According to another belief, these birds possess human souls. For these reasons, White storks were protected throughout human settlements.
  • The White stork features more than 120 postage stamps of around 60 stamp-issuing organizations.

References

1. White Stork Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_stork
2. White Stork on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/22697691/0

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