Ciconiidae – Storks

Storks swallow their prey whole and any vegetation consumed is by accident

These birds are easily recognizable by their large size, with some species, like the Marabou stork, standing up to 1.52 meters (5 feet) tall and boasting an impressive wingspan that can exceed 2.5 meters (8.2 feet). This substantial wingspan is not just for show; it provides storks with remarkable flying abilities, particularly evident during their long migratory journeys.

Storks are predominantly found in the Eastern Hemisphere, especially in Africa, Asia, and Europe, where they prefer warm climates. These birds are absent from the polar regions of North America and Australia, likely due to the unsuitable environmental conditions and lack of preferred habitats. They are highly migratory, with species like the White Stork embarking on epic journeys from their European breeding grounds to wintering spots in Africa, covering thousands of kilometers. These migrations are typically over land, following thermals that assist in their energy-efficient flight.

The habitats favored by storks are generally associated with wetlands, marshes, rivers, and lakes. Their long legs are perfectly adapted for wading through shallow waters. In contrast, their long, pointed beaks are ideal for probing the mud for food, which includes a variety of small animals such as fish, insects, amphibians, and even small mammals and birds.

Colonial in nature, many stork species nest in large groups, sometimes including hundreds of nests in a single location. These sites are often used year after year, and some have been in continuous use for centuries. The nests are large structures frequently built atop trees, buildings, or other tall structures. These communal nesting sites benefit the storks by providing safety in numbers from predators.

Human interactions with storks are generally minimal, partly because storks choose to nest and feed in habitats that humans do not heavily use. In many cultures, storks are welcomed and protected because they are believed to bring good luck.