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All Things Stork.
Information and pictures on Storks.
Educational, Zoological, and Classification info.

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Index

Storks are large, long-legged, long-necked wading birds with long stout bills, belonging to the family Ciconiidae. They occur in most of the warmer regions of the world and tend to live in drier habitats than the related herons, spoonbills and ibises; they also lack the powder down that those groups use to clean off fish slime. Storks have no syrinx and are mute, giving no bird call; bill-clattering is an important mode of stork communication at the nest. Many species are migratory. Most storks eat frogs, fish, insects, earthworms, and small birds or mammals. There are 19 living species of storks in six genera.

Storks tend to use soaring, gliding flight, which conserves energy. Soaring Storks requires thermal air currents. Ottomar Anschütz's famous 1884 album of photographs of storks inspired the design of Otto Lilienthal's experimental gliders of the late 19th century. Storks are heavy with wide wingspans, and the Marabou Stork, with a wingspan of 3.2 m (10.5 feet), shares the distinction of "longest wingspan of any land bird" with the Andean Condor.

Their nests are often very large and may be used for many years. Some have been known to grow to over 2 m (6 feet) in diameter and about 3 m (10 feet) in depth. Storks were once thought to be monogamous, but this is only true to a limited extent. They may change mates after migrations, and migrate without them. They tend to be attached to nests as much as partners.

Storks' size, serial monogamy, and faithfulness to an established nesting site contribute to their prominence in mythology and culture.

Etymology
The modern English word comes from Old English "storc", which comes from Proto Germanic *sturkaz (compare Old Norse storkr,and Old High German storh, all meaning stork). Nearly every Germanic language has a descendant of this proto-language word to indicate the stork; in some languages cognate words are used that apparently originate in a euphemism and may signify the presence of a deep-seated taboo (compare the etymology of "bear").

Language

Word used for "Stork"

Icelandic storkur
Swedish stork
Norwegian stork
Danish stork
Frisian (W.) earrebarre*
Old Saxon odeboro,* stork
Low Saxon Germany: Aad(e)baar* (most dialects), Eebeer,* Stork;

Netherlands: aaiber(d),* aaiber(t),* eiber(t),* eileuver,* luibert,* ooievaar,* ooievaer,* ooievaor,* stork, störk, sturk(e), stoark

Dutch ooievaar*
Old German ōtibero,* storh
German Storch, dialectal Adebar*
Russian Аист*
Marathi Bagala*

StorksAccording to the New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, the Germanic root is probably related to "stark", in reference to the stiff or rigid posture of a European species, the White Stork. Rarely the word's origin is linked to Greek torgos meaning "vulture".

Old Church Slavonic struku, Slovenian štorklja, Russian стерх (pronounced sterkh, meaning Siberian White Crane), Lithuanian dialect starkus (commonly gandras), Hungarian eszterag (rarely used; commonly gólya), Bulgarian щъркел (roughly pronounced as shtarkel) and Albanian sterkjok are all Germanic loan-words.

The stork's folkloric role as a bringer of babies and harbinger of luck and prosperity may originate from the Netherlands and Northern Germany, where it is common in children's nursery stories.

Systematics

  • FAMILY CICONIIDAE
    • Palaeoephippiorhynchus (fossil: Early Oligocene of Fayyum, Egypt)
    • Grallavis (fossil: Early Miocene of Saint-Gérand-le-Puy, France, and Djebel Zelten, Libya) - may be same as
    • Prociconia (fossil: Late Pleistocene of Brazil) - may belong to modern genus Jabiru or Ciconia
    • Pelargosteon (fossil: Early Pleistocene of Romania)
    • Ciconiidae gen. et sp. indet. - formerly Cygnus bilinicus (fossil: Early Miocene of Břešťany, Czechia)
    • cf. Leptoptilos gen. et sp. indet. - formerly L. siwalicensis (fossil: Late Miocene? - Late Pliocene of Siwalik, India)
    • Ciconiidae gen. et sp. indet. (fossil: Late Pleistocene of San Josecito Cavern, Mexico) - Ciconia or Mycteria (Steadman et al. 1994)
    • Genus Mycteria
      • Milky Stork (Mycteria cinerea)
      • Yellow-billed Stork (Mycteria ibis)
      • Painted Stork ( Mycteria leucocephala)
      • Wood Stork (Mycteria americana)
    • Genus Anastomus
      • Asian Openbill Stork, Anastomus oscitans
      • African Openbill Stork, Anastomus lamelligerus
    • * Genus Ciconia
      • Abdim's Stork, Ciconia abdimii
      • Woolly-necked Stork, Ciconia episcopus
      • Storm's Stork, Ciconia stormi
      • Maguari Stork, Ciconia maguari
      • Oriental White Stork, Ciconia boyciana
      • White Stork Ciconia ciconia
      • Black Stork Ciconia nigra
    • Genus Ephippiorhynchus
      • Black-necked Stork, Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus
      • Saddle-billed Stork, Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis
    • Genus Jabiru
      • Jabiru Jabiru mycteria
    • Genus Leptoptilos
      • Lesser Adjutant, Leptoptilos javanicus
      • Greater Adjutant, Leptoptilos dubius
      • Marabou Stork, Leptoptilos crumeniferus

Though some storks are highly threatened, no species or subspecies are known to have gone extinct in historic times. A Ciconia bone found in a rock shelter on Réunion was probably of a bird taken there as food by early settlers; no known account mentions the presence of storks on the Mascarenes.

The fossil genus Ciconiopsis (Deseado Early Oligocene of Patagonia, Argentina) is usually tentatively assigned to this family. For more fossil storks, see the genus articles.

Symbolism of storksStorks
The white stork is the symbol of The Hague in the Netherlands, where about 25 percent of European storks breed. It is also a predominant symbol of the region of Alsace in eastern France.

In Western culture the White Stork is a symbol of childbirth. In Victorian times the details of human reproduction were difficult to approach, especially in reply to a child's query of "Where did I come from?"; "The stork brought you to us" was the tactic used to avoid discussion of sex. This habit was derived from the once popular superstition that storks were the harbingers of happiness and prosperity, and possibly from the habit of some storks of nesting atop chimneys, down which the new baby could be imagined as entering the house.

The image of a stork bearing an infant wrapped in a sling held in its beak is common in popular culture. The small pink or reddish patches often found on a newborn child's eyelids, between the eyes, on the upper lip, and on the nape of the neck, which are clusters of developing veins that soon fade, are sometimes still called "stork bites".

Vlasic uses this child-bearing stork as a mascot in North America for its brand of pickles, merging the stork-baby mythology with the notion that pregnant women have an above-average appetite for pickles.

In Vietnam, the stork symbolize the strenuousness of poor Vietnamese farmers and the diligence of Vietnamese women.

Mythology of storks
Most of these myths tend to refer to the White Stork.

  • In Ancient Egypt the stork was associated with the human ba; they had the same phonetic value. The ba was the unique individual character of each human being: a stork with a human head was an image of the ba-soul, which unerringly migrates home each night, like the stork, to be reunited with the body during the Afterlife.
  • The motto "Birds of a feather flock together" is appended to Aesop's fable of the farmer and the stork his net caught among the cranes that were robbing his fields of grain. The stork vainly pleaded to be spared, being no crane.
  • The Hebrew word for stork was equivalent to "devotee; (literary) devout woman, God-fearing woman, religiously observant woman; righteous, pious, kind - woman ", and the care of storks for their young, in their highly visible nests, made the stork a widespread emblem of parental care. It was widely noted in ancient natural history that a stork pair will be consumed with the nest in a fire, rather than fly and abandon it.
  • In Greek mythology, Gerana was an Ćthiope, the enemy of Hera, who changed her into a stork, a punishment Hera also inflicted on Antigone, daughter of Laomedon of Troy (Ovid, Metamorphoses 6.93). Stork-Gerana tried to abduct her child, Mopsus. This accounted, for the Greeks, for the mythic theme of the war between the pygmies and the storks. In popular Western culture, there is a common image of a stork bearing an infant wrapped in cloths held in its beak; the stork, rather than absconding with the child Mopsus, is pictured as delivering the infant, an image of childbirth.
  • The stork is alleged in folklore to be monogamous although in fact this monogamy is "serial monogamy", the bond lasting one season: see above. For Early Christians the stork became an emblem of a highly respected "white marriage", that is, a chaste marriage. This symbolism endured to the seventeenth century, as in Henry Peacham's emblem book Minerva Britanna (1612).
  • Though "Stork" is rare as an English surname, the Czech surname "Čapek" means "little stork".
  • For the Chinese, the stork was able to snatch up a worthy man, like the flute-player Lan Ts'ai Ho, and carry him to a blissful life.
  • In Norse mythology, Hoenir gives to mankind the spirit gift, the óđr that includes will and memory and makes us human (see Rydberg link). Hoenir's epithets langifótr "long-leg" and aurkonungr "mire-king" identify him possibly as a kind of stork. Such a Stork King figures in northern European myths and fables. However, it is possible that there is confusion here between the White Stork and the more northerly-breeding Common Crane, which superficially resembles a stork but is completely unrelated.
  • In Bulgarian folklore, the stork is a symbol of the coming spring (as this is the time when the birds return to nest in Bulgaria after their winter migration) and in certain regions of Bulgaria it plays a central role in the custom of Martenitsa: when the first stork is sighted it is time to take off the red-and-white Martenitsa tokens, for spring is truly come.
  • A series of sightings of a mysterious pterodactyl-like creature in South Texas' Rio Grande Valley in the 1970s has been attributed to an errant jabiru that become lost during a migratory flight and wound up in an unfamiliar region, or an Ephippiorhynchus stork escaped from captivity (see Big Bird).
  • In Estonian, stork is "toonekurg", which is derived from "toonela"(underworld in Estonian folklore) combined with "kurg"(crane). It may seem not to make sense to associate the now-common white stork with death, but at the times they were named, the now-rare black stork was probably the more common breed.

Scientific classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Ciconiiformes
  • Family: Ciconiidae  Gray, 1840
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