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Storks: Ciconiidae

European White Stork (ciconia Ciconia): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: European white storks have white feathers on the head and body and their wings are black. Their long bills and tall legs are red orange. The birds are 39 to 40 inches (100 to 102 centimeters) long from beak to tail, and they weigh between 5.1 and 9.7 pounds (2.3 and 4.4 kilograms). Their wingspan is 61 to 65 inches (155 to 165 centimeters).

Geographic range: Most European white storks spend the winters in tropical Africa and India, and they nest in Europe and western Asia. Some also live year-round at the southern tip of Africa.

Habitat: European white storks prefer open lands without tall trees or thick vegetation, usually in or near wetlands. They sometimes nest in towns and cities.

Diet: Unlike wood storks, European white storks find their food by sight. They eat a variety of animals, from insects and earthworms, to lizards, snakes, and frogs.

Most European white storks spend the winters in tropical Africa and India, and they nest in Europe and western Asia. They prefer open areas, but also nest in cities and towns. (© U. Walz/OKAPIA/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Behavior and reproduction: European white storks migrate for long distances between their wintering areas in Africa and India to their nesting places in Europe and Asia. They soar high on warm air currents and follow the same migration routes year after year.

In spring, male storks arrive at the nesting place first. Males often return to the same nests used in previous years and add more sticks and grass to them. An old nest may grow to be as big as a car. Some males build new nests. Female storks arrive about a week later. The birds have a noisy courtship display: they tilt their heads back and click their bills. This clattering noise can be heard from far away. The females lay an average of four eggs. Incubation is done by both parents and eggs hatch after thirty-three to thirty-four days. At eight to nine weeks the young birds fledge, grow the feathers needed for flight.

European white storks and people: People are fond of European white storks because they say that the birds bring good luck. The birds help control pests by eating bothersome insects and other unwanted animals.

Conservation status: European white storks are listed as threatened. In Africa, people poison insects and other animals that eat crops. So the storks have less food to eat, or they eat poisoned animals and die. In Europe, many of the storks' wetlands have been turned into farms and cities. Some of the storks are hunted on their migration trips or are killed by collisions with power lines. Groups are working to protect the storks from extinction, dying out. ∎



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Web sites:

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Everglades National Park. "Wood Stork." National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/ever/eco/wdstork.htm (accessed on April 25, 2004)

Klinkenberg, Jeff. "Coming Back on Its Own Terms." National Wildlife. http://www.nwf.org/nationalwildlife/article.cfm?articleid=679&issueid=17 (accessed on April 25, 2004)

Save Our Everglades. "The Wood Stork: An Indicator of an Endangered Everglades." Everglades Foundation. http://www.saveoureverglades.org/education/education_wildlife_stork.html (accessed on April 25, 2004)

WildWatch Article. "Storks—Long-Beaked Predators." African Wildlife & Conservation. http://www.wildwatch.com/magazine/feature1.asp (accessed on April 25, 2004)

Williams, Laura. "Letters From the Cabin—A Lone Russian Crusader Takes on the Communist Bureaucracy to Protect a Forest Home of the Rare Black Stork. International Wildlife (November–December 2001). Online at http://www.nwf.org/internationalwildlife/article.cfm?articleId=4&issueId=1 (accessed on April 25, 2004).

Wolkomir, Richard and Joyce. "In Search of Sanctuary." Smithsonian (February 2001) Online at http://www.smithsonianmag.si.edu/smithsonian/issues01/feb01/storks.html (accessed on April 25, 2004)

Youth, Howard. "Landfill Magic." National Wildlife (August/September 2002) Online at http://www.nwf.org/nationalwildlife/article.cfm?articleid=522&issueid=45 (accessed on April 25, 2004)

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsStorks: Ciconiidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Wood Stork (mycteria Americana): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, STORKS AND PEOPLE