African AnimalsAfrican birding

White Stork (Ciconia ciconia)

It is a large, white bird with black wing flight feathers and a distinct red bill. It thrives in open areas such as agricultural areas and grassland. During the breeding season, it moves to wetlands and farmlands, building nests hidden in trees and buildings. Like their cousins, it flies with its legs and neck outstretched, boosted by the slow and regular flapping of wings and often interchanged with gliding motions here and there.

Read further to know more about the White Stork

What is a White Stork?

The White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) is a large wader belonging to the Ciconiidae family. It has two subspecies, the European White Stork of Europe and the African White Stork of Northwest and Southern Africa. Both its genus and specific name, Ciconia, have a direct translation in Latin as “stork,” which were both recorded in Horace’s and Ovid’s works.

Its seven levels of classification are as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Ciconiiformes

Family: Ciconiidae

Genus: Ciconia

Species: C. ciconia

White Stork Physical Description

White Storks are equipped with large bodies, reaching a length of 31-45 inches or 80-115 centimeters from the bill tip to their tail end, and a weight ranging from 2.5 to 4.4 kilograms. Meanwhile, their wingspan can measure 77-85 inches or 195-215 centimeters.

These wading birds generally have a white plumage but with black wing flight feathers and tectrix, brought by the melanin pigment and carotenoids content they get from their usual food.

Mature storks have distinct long, conical red beaks, and long, slender necks. Their long red legs are partly-webbed, with dull, nail-like claws. Males and females look similar. However, males tend to be relatively larger than the females. They also have a ruff on their chest, made up of long feathers, which are handy during courtship displays.

Their winds are long and broad, allowing them to ride air thermals. Air thermals are updrafts of warm air that rises to the sky from the ground. It allows birds to extend their range and gain altitude during migration. They are a fascinating sight when in air, as their long necks protrude forward while their long legs extend backward. These birds do wingbeats in moderate yet regular intervals to save their energy.

On the ground, storks also walk at a gentle, consistent pace, stretching their head upwards. When they roost, they arch their heads between their shoulders.

Where can they be spotted?

White Storks thrives in various habitats such as pastures, open wetlands, savannas, agricultural fields, meadows, and steppes. They dwell in areas with temperate ambiance, with presences of shallow, standing waters. These wading birds are found in many parts of the world, including Europe, Asia Minor, the Middle East, and the northern part of Africa. When winter season comes, white storks move into hotter, tropical African regions, the Indian subcontinent, and certain locations in the Middle East.

Interesting Facts You Should Know About the White Stork

White storks are carnivorous feeding on various animal species they can get from the ground and shallow waters. Some of the food items they consume include frogs, snakes, fish, lizards, rodents, scorpions, spiders, and small mammals. If ever it comes in their way, they will refrain from eating chicks of other ground-nesting bird species.

These wading birds are also pretty vocal, producing loud sounds by clattering their bills. The noise is even amplified by their gular pouch, seemingly functioning as a soundbox. Meanwhile, their juveniles, whistle, croaks, or whines when they beg for food but soon enough, will also learn how to create sounds by clattering their bills.

White storks are pretty gregarious and non-territorial. They flock with thousands of individuals that often travel during winter and move to sub-Saharan Africa.

During the breeding season, they nest in small structured groups, building with ample distances from each other. Typically, they construct them in trees, though they may also build them on buildings and other infrastructures.

White storks are monogamous and develop life-long bonds with their partners. Their mating season happens from March to April. White male storks get to the mating ground the first few days before the females arrive. Males enlarge or fix nests, left from the previous breeding period. Courtship rituals are characterized by soft calls, but loud warnings may also be used to ward off the intruders.

The female white stork will lay 2 to 5 eggs, with 2-day intervals. Parents jointly incubate the chicks for about 34 days. After hatching, the parents will also cooperatively feed the chicks, which will usually fledge in about 58-64 days. One to two weeks after, the chicks will disperse from the family and will reach sexual maturity in 3 to 5 years.

White storks are classified as Least Concern under the IUCN Red List. However, they suffer from the destruction of its wetland habitats. While they have new nesting sites on buildings, new architectural advancements on infrastructures are now preventing them from doing so. Often, they also crash into electrical wires or are hunted for food and sport.

 WILDLIFE PARKS AND RESERVES WHERE THIS SPECIES IS FOUND:

BOTSWANA

Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Chobe National Park

Linyanti Swamp

Makgadikgadi Pan

Mashatu Game Reserve

Okavango Delta

Moremi Game Reserve

Savute

SOUTH AFRICA

Addo Elephant National Park

Cape Peninsula National Park

Hluhluwe Game Reserves

Kalahari Gemsbok National Park

Knysna Lagoon

Kruger National Park

Madikwe Game Reserve

St Lucia Wetlands

NAMIBIA

Caprivi Region

Damaraland

Etosha National Park

Namib-Naukluft National Park

Skeleton Coast

ZAMBIA

Kafue

Lechwe Plains

Lower Zambezi

South Luangwa

Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park

ZIMBABWE

Gona-re-Zhou

Hwange

Lake Kariba

Mana Pools

Matobo Hills

Victoria Falls

White Stork
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