White Stork Facts
|Up to 3.8 ft (1.15 m); up to 7 ft (2.15 m) (wingspan)
|11-22 lb (5-10 kg)
|Earthworms, insects, frogs, mice, fishes
|Europe, Africa, Asia
|Clatters with its long red bill
Storks are large birds that are active during the day. They are known for their long bill, long legs and large wings. They hunt small amphibians, fish, rodents, but also insects and worms.
The most famous stork in Europe is the white stork. It is one of 19 species of storks, which also includes the marabou, painted stork, black stork and black-necked stork. First, we have collected some general information and special features about storks for you. The rest of the profile is about the white stork.
Anatomy and Appearance
Size and Weight
• The Largest
The largest stork is the marabou with a length of 5 feet (152 cm). The marabou also holds the record regarding weight and wing span: When it spreads its wings, the width can measure up to 9.8 feet (3 meters), and it can weigh up to 19.6 pounds (8.9 kg).
• The Smallest
The smallest stork lives in Africa and is named Abdim's stork. It measures 28-31 inches (73-80 cm) and weighs about 2.2 pounds (1 kg).
Why do they have long legs? White storks have a graceful and noble appearance, and strut about with dignity on their long legs. They use them to wade through deeper waters or high grass looking for food. Their long neck comes in conveniently to stretch down and catch the prey.
Why do they have long bills? Storks use their long bills to catch small animals out of the water. If they're still to far away to catch their prey, they stretch their long neck just a little bit more.
Why does the white stork clatter? If two white storks meet in their nest, they often greet each other by clattering with their bills.
Storks are birds of passage and fly about 10,000 km south every winter. In contrast to the rough winter landscape, they find enough food there. There are two main routes for the storks to reach their “holiday” destination in Africa: Via Spain and the Strait of Gibraltar, or via the Jordan valley and the Sinai Peninsula. They do not fly across the open sea as they are dependent on the thermal lift (= updraft, which occurs when the sun warms the air above the surface of the earth).
Enemies and Threats
Adult white storks hardly have any enemies. Still, their life is no picnic. They often suffer from parasites such as mites, agriculture destroys their habitat, they die from power lines, from flying to winter quarters, from chemicals and pesticides.
Storks build their nests mainly with branches and twigs. Often they return to their nest year after year in order to further extend it and breed there again. Mostly they choose lofty places for this to better protect their offspring from animals of prey and to have a better overview of their feeding area.
Little stork fledglings are almost naked, but very quickly develop a dark fluff that keeps them warm. The nestlings are being taken care of their parents and eat about 60% of their body weight. If you weighed about 88 pounds (40 kg), you would have to munch away 24 kg of food every day. After three to four weeks, the little storks become a little more active and test their wings for the first time. Yet, they still have to wait for the big moment, because it takes a few months until their feathers are fully developed.
Why Do People Say That White Storks Bring the Babies?
The white stork breeds in spring on chimneys and roofs and hatches its fledglings there. It is not completely clear where the saying originates from, but it could have come about like this:
The most popular date for weddings in Sweden is the midsummer celebration in June (highest position of the sun during the year). Many babies are born nine months later, i. e. in the following spring – at the same time when the white storks return from their winter quarters in Africa. This is why both incidences may seem closely connected to each other.
Easter Bunny in Thuringia
In former times, it was the stork instead of the Easter bunny which brought the delicious chocolate eggs in Thuringia.
The white stork is the national bird of Poland and Lithuania.
Bird of the Year
In Germany the white stork was the bird of the year in 1984 and in 1994.