The White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) is a large wading bird in the stork family Ciconiidae, breeding in the warmer parts of Europe (north to Estonia), northwest Africa, and southwest Asia (east to southern Kazakhstan). It is a strong migrant, wintering mainly in tropical Africa, down to the south of South Africa, and also in the Indian subcontinent.
It is a huge bird, 100-125 cm (40-50 in.) tall, with a 155-200 cm (61-79 in) wingspan and a weight of 2.3-4.5 kg (5-10 lbs). It is completely white except for the black wing flight feathers, and its red bill and legs, which are black on juveniles. It walks slowly and steadily on the ground. Like all storks with the exception of the Leptoptilos genus, it flies with its neck outstretched.
The Oriental White Stork (Ciconia boyciana), now regarded as a distinct species, was formerly treated as a subspecies of the White Stork.
Threats to the species include the drainage of wetlands and other agricultural intensification, collisions with overhead power lines, use of persistent pesticides (such as DDT) to combat locusts in Africa, and (largely illegal) hunting on passage and the wintering grounds (HBW). Some birds, known in German as Pfeilstorch ("arrow storks"), have been found in Europe with African arrows embedded in their bodies.
The White Stork is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.
Twenty five years ago the population of this "iconic emblem of Alsace", the bird revered for bringing fertility and luck to any home upon which it nested, had fallen to fewer than nine pairs in the entire upper Rhine River Valley, an area closely identified with the White Stork for centuries. Conservation efforts there, particularly by the Association for the Protection and Reintroduction of Storks in Alsace and Lorraine, have successfully increased the population of birds to 270 pairs.
White storks breed in open farmland areas with access to marshy wetlands, building a stick nest in trees, on buildings, or special platforms. Because it is viewed as bird of good luck, it is not persecuted, and often nests close to human habitation. In southern Europe, storks' nests can be seen on churches and other buildings. It often forms small colonies. Like most of its relatives, it feeds mainly on frogs and large insects, but also young birds, lizards and rodents.
The white stork is almost silent except for the noisy mutual bill-clattering when adults meet at the nest.
Poles, Lithuanians and Ukrainians believe that storks bring harmony to a family on whose property they nest. The White Stork is the national bird of Poland and Lithuania. Famous polish poet Cyprian Kamil Norwid mentioned polish storks in his poem "My song":
For the land where it's a great travestyTo harm a stork's nest in a pear tree,For storks serve us all...I am homesick, Lord!...
In western part of Ukraine it's called buziok. There it is associated with the start of a new family in a new home. In Ukraine the bird is considered as the Messenger of Spring, because it is one of the first birds to return to Ukraine after wintering. It is also - set against a yellow and green background - the symbol of the city of The Hague, The Netherlands.
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