The stork is a family of large birds belonging to the ankle order. They have no goiter.
A small swimming membrane connects the three front toes of storks. This is due to the fact that their vocal cords are reduced.
Typically, representatives of the stork family have very wide wings, deeply dissected. Many species of storks make significant migrations every year, and in general storks are considered excellent flyers. These birds use air temperature correctly in order to be able to conserve energy during flight.
In flight, storks stretch their necks forward. The most numerous populations of storks are in the countries of the tropical zone. It is very common to see storks in hot and temperate latitudes.
The most famous member of the stork family is the white stork, which has a lifespan of approximately twenty years. Almost all white storks are migratory birds - they fly to India or Africa for the winter (there are two migration routes).
Storks are found on all continents. True, in North America, their distribution is limited to the territory of the extreme south. In Australia, storks live only in the northeastern part of the mainland. Three species of these birds nest on the territory of the Russian Federation. In the European part of Eurasia only two species of storks nest. These are the white stork and the black stork. Sometimes, as a rare guest in Europe, you can see representatives of the stork species, the yellow-billed beak and the African marabou. As a rule, when choosing a habitat, storks give preference to territories located near water bodies, as well as open spaces.
The white stork is the most famous member of the stork family. The white stork has a white plumage, the only exception is the black tips of the wings. These birds are endowed with a long, thin beak that has a red color, a long neck, and long legs, which are also characterized by a reddish tint. An interesting fact is that at the moment when the stork's wings are folded, the deceptive impression may arise that almost all the bird has a black color. By the way, it was from this feature that the Ukrainian name of this type of stork came from - black-nose. Males and females of white storks are almost identical to each other in color. The difference lies in the size of the individuals - the female white stork is still slightly smaller than the males. The growth of these birds varies from one meter to one hundred twenty-five centimeters, and the wingspan often reaches two meters. The mass of an adult white stork is approximately four kilograms. On average, these birds have a lifespan of twenty years. The appearance of the white stork is very similar to the Far Eastern stork. Recently, however, the Far Eastern stork has been isolated as an independent species.
The distribution area of the white stork is quite wide. It can be found throughout European and Asian territory. White stork overwinters in tropical Africa or India. Moreover, the population of storks that settled in the southern regions of the African continent adheres to a sedentary lifestyle. Some storks living in Western Europe are also settled. These are the areas for which warmer winters are characteristic. Migrating storks take two wintering routes. Individuals that nest west of the Elbe River use the following route: after crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, these birds remain to winter in Africa. This is the area between tropical rainforests and the Sahara Desert. White storks, which nest east of the Elbe River, migrate through Asia Minor and Palestine. Their wintering grounds are the African continent between South Africa and South Sudan. Some individuals overwinter in South Arabia (very few white storks) and Ethiopia (slightly more birds stay here for the winter, compared to South Arabia). Regardless of what specific territory we are talking about, white storks always gather in huge flocks for the winter, including thousands of birds. Young representatives of the white stork species often stay in Africa not only for the winter, but also for the summer. Migrations of white storks associated with the flight to wintering grounds occur during the day. Moreover, the birds fly at a fairly high altitude, avoiding being above sea waters. During flights, you can often see storks soaring.
White storks migrate in small groups. Sometimes in flocks. These groups (or flocks) of storks form immediately before leaving for wintering places. This is the time immediately following the breeding and feeding of the offspring. The beginning of departure falls on the end of summer or the first month of autumn. There are times when the departure of white storks for various reasons is delayed until October. As noted above, white storks fly at high altitudes during the day. An interesting fact is that the speed of movement of white storks towards the south is two times less than the speed of movement of these birds towards their nesting in spring. Some individuals sometimes spend the winter directly in their nesting area. This situation is observed, for example, in Denmark.
The diet of white storks mainly includes small vertebrates. As well as various invertebrates. Storks inhabiting European territory will never give up vipers, snakes, frogs and toads. In addition, locusts and grasshoppers are the favorite food of white storks. The diet of these birds also includes earthworms, bears, May beetles, small mammals (mainly hares, gophers, moles), and lizards. Sometimes they eat small fish and very rarely small birds. When looking for food, white storks walk very gracefully and slowly. However, when they see potential prey, they grab it with lightning speed.
Storks have been using the same nest for several years. Previously, these birds chose trees as places for nesting. On them, storks used branches to build a huge nest. As a rule, the place of their nesting was in the immediate vicinity of human settlements. A little later, these birds began to equip their nests on the roofs of various buildings (including houses). Sometimes a person helped the stork in this regard, erecting these buildings especially for them. Recently, individuals of this species have successfully arranged nests on factory pipes or high-voltage lines. An interesting fact is that the older the nest, the larger its diameter is. In addition, the weight of individual nests reaches several quintals. This is such a huge nest that it becomes a place of life not only for the storks themselves, but also for a variety of small birds. The latter, for example, may include starlings, sparrows, and wagtails. Quite often, the nest is "inherited" - after the death of the parents, it is taken over by the offspring. The oldest nest, which has been used by more than one generation of storks, is the nest built by these birds on one of the German towers (in the eastern part of the country). It served storks from 1549 to 1930.
Male white storks are the first to arrive at the nesting site. They are ahead of females by only a few days. There are cases when males cover a distance of two hundred kilometers in one day. Storks return to our country in late March or early April. An interesting fact is that the male white stork considers the female who appears first at the nest as his own; but if shortly after that another female flies to the nest, then both will compete for the right to become a mother. Moreover, in this struggle, the male takes absolutely no part. The female that has withstood the competition is invited by the male to the nest. At the same time, the male throws his head back on his back and, with the help of his beak, makes clicking sounds, and in order to create a greater resonance, he removes his tongue into the larynx. The male makes identical clinking sounds when another male approaches his nest. Only the posture is different. The white stork horizontally draws in its neck and body, while lowering or raising its wings. Sometimes it happens that young storks fly to the old male's nest. This is due to the fact that the former are simply too lazy to equip their own nest. Fights often occur between the owner of the nest and opponents who do not react to preliminary threats. When the male's invitation is accepted, both birds, being in the nest, begin to clap their beaks and throw their heads back.
The female white stork lays two to five eggs. Less often, their number varies from one to seven. The eggs are white. Both the male and the female take part in incubating eggs - usually the roles are distributed as follows: the female incubates at night, and the male during the day. When changing hens, specific ritual poses always take place. The duration of incubation of eggs is approximately thirty-three days. Only the chicks that have appeared are helpless, but they are sighted. At first, the diet of chicks consists mainly of earthworms. Parents throw them out of the throat, and the offspring either grab the worms on the fly, or collect them in the nest itself. As they grow older, the chicks of white storks are able to snatch their food directly from the beak of their parents.
White stork chicks are closely monitored by adults. Adult birds often discard all sick and weak chicks from the nest. Only on the fifty-fourth or fifty-fifth day after birth, young storks take off from the nest. However, this process takes place again under the supervision of parents. Even after takeoff, for another two or two and a half weeks, the chicks are fed by the parents, and the storks improve their flight skills. Storks become completely independent at seventy days of age. An interesting fact is that young storks fly for the winter without any leadership over them from the adults. The path that storks set off on at the end of August is shown by natural instinct. Adults, however, leave for wintering a little later - in September. Storks become sexually mature at the age of three. Despite this, some individuals begin to nest only six years after birth.
The stork is a bird very revered by folk culture. Various mythopoetic traditions designate storks as deities, shamans, totemic ancestors, demiurges, etc. White storks are considered symbols of life and growth, sky and sun, wind and thunder, freedom and inspiration, superiority and prophecy, abundance and fertility.
The black stork is another member of the stork family. The black stork is included in the lists of the Red Book of Russia and Belarus. When flying, it is often in a soaring state. This feature is also observed in other storks. In flight, black storks also throw back their legs and stretch their necks forward. The diet of black storks mainly consists of fish, invertebrates and small aquatic vertebrates. Thus, flood meadows located in the immediate vicinity of water bodies, as well as shallow water, become feeding places for these birds. In addition, during wintering, the diet of black storks diversifies due to large insects, a little less often lizards and snakes, as well as small rodents.
The black stork is black in color. The plumage of black storks is mainly black, although it has a copper-red or greenish tint. The belly side of the body of this bird is white, and the throat, beak and head are bright red. In addition, a bright red color has an unfeathered spot on the bridle and near the eyes of a black stork.
The size of the black stork is slightly smaller than that of the white stork. The wing length of a black stork is approximately fifty-four centimeters. The average weight of this bird is three kilograms.
Black storks tend to avoid humans. The black stork is a very secretive bird. In view of this, storks, when choosing a habitat, give preference to old or deep forests, areas near water bodies. Thus, the image of the black stork can be found near swamps, forest lakes and rivers. This species inhabits the forest zone of Eurasia. As for the territory of our country, representatives of this species live on the territory from the Baltic Sea to the Urals, as well as on the territory of South Siberia up to the Far East (the largest number of representatives of black storks nest in Primorye). A separate population of black storks inhabits the south of Russia. These are the forests of the Stavropol Territory, Dagestan, Chechnya. The wintering place of black storks is South Asia. In addition, black storks can be seen in South Africa - a sedentary population of these birds lives here.
The black stork is a monogamous bird. It is able to reproduce only three years after birth. The nest is usually built at a height of ten to twenty meters. These can be cliff ledges or tall old trees. A prerequisite is that nesting places should be far from human habitation. Black stork nests once a year. There are times when the nests of these birds are found high in the mountains. It can be as high as 2200 meters above sea level. When building a nest, black storks use twigs and thick branches of trees. Storks fasten them together with clay, turf and earth. By analogy with white storks, representatives of this species serve one nest for many years. End of March - beginning of April is marked by the arrival of black storks at the nesting site. The male, issuing a hoarse whistle and fluffing up the white tail, invites the female to his nest; the female lays from four to seven eggs. Both parents take part in the incubation, which lasts about thirty days. Chicks of black storks appear unevenly due to the fact that hatching begins with the first egg. The color of the hatched chicks is grayish or white. The base of the beak is orange and the tip of the beak is greenish yellow. For about ten days, the offspring only lies in the nest. Then the chicks begin to sit down, they can stand on their feet only at the age of thirty-five to forty days. The residence time of chicks of black storks in the nest ranges from fifty-five to sixty-five days. Storks receive food from their parents four or five times a day.
Black storks do not form colonies. Often, the nests of these birds are located at a distance of at least six kilometers from each other. The exception is the population of black storks nesting in the Eastern Transcaucasia. Here the nests are located at a distance of only one kilometer. Sometimes you can even see two dwelling nests of black storks on the same tree.
The voice of the black stork is extremely rare. Like white storks, these birds are extremely reluctant to voice their voices. If this happens, then, as a rule, in flight, when black storks emit a rather loud cry. It can be translated as "chi-ling" or "che-le". Sometimes black storks talk quietly in the nest; during the mating season, representatives of this species emit a loud hissing; these birds also very rarely knock with their beaks. Chicks have a very unpleasant and rude voice.
Attempts have been made to cross white and black storks.In zoos, it has been noticed more than once that a male black stork begins to care for a female white stork, but it has not been possible to get hybrid chicks, which is largely due to significant differences in the mating rituals of representatives of these two species.
The Far Eastern stork is a rare bird. The Far Eastern stork is a species related to the white stork. Currently, the population of this species is about three thousand individuals. The Far Eastern stork is listed in the Red Book of Russia.
The Far Eastern stork has a lot in common with the white stork. First of all, we are talking about the color of the plumage. In size, the Far Eastern stork is somewhat larger than the black stork. In addition, the Far Eastern stork has a more powerful beak; legs of these birds have bright red color. The beak is black. Another difference between the two types of storks is the color of the chicks' beak - the white stork chicks are endowed with a black beak, while the Far Eastern stork chicks are reddish orange.
The Far Eastern stork is found only in Russia. This is practically the case. Indeed, almost the entire distribution area of this species falls on the territory of the Russian Federation. The name speaks for itself - these birds nest in the Far East. To be more precise, these are the territories of Primorye and Priamurye. In addition, the Far Eastern stork is found in Mongolia, northeastern China, and northern Korea. Far Eastern storks gather in flocks rather early and fly away for wintering (south and southeast of China).
Far Eastern storks prefer wet places. These birds settle in close proximity to wet places and water bodies. Their diet includes aquatic and semi-aquatic animals. These are invertebrates and small vertebrates. Mainly Far Eastern storks feed on frogs and small fish. When choosing nesting sites, individuals of this species try to avoid the proximity of human settlements. Moreover, the Far Eastern stork rarely builds nests in remote, inaccessible places.
Far Eastern storks arrange nests high in trees. An indispensable condition for choosing a nesting site is the presence of water bodies nearby. These can be swamps, lakes, rivers. In addition to trees, other high-rise structures can become a place for a nest. We are talking, for example, about power lines. The diameter of the nest in Far Eastern storks is about two meters, and the height of the nest can vary from three to fourteen meters. One nest (as in the case of other storks) serves individuals of this species for many years. Eggs are laid at the end of April. The number of eggs in a clutch ranges from two to six and depends on various conditions. Helpless chicks hatch approximately thirty days after oviposition. The female and male feed their offspring by belching food into their beak. Far Eastern storks reach sexual maturity at the age of three to four years.