The storks are large, long-legged, long-necked wading birds with long stout bills. They occur in most of the warmer regions of the world. They tend to live in drier habitats than their relatives the herons, spoonbills and ibises, and lack the powder down that those groups use to clean off fish slime. Storks lack a pharynx and are mute; bill-clattering is an important mode of stork communication at the nest. Many species are migratory. Storks eat frogs, fish, insects, worms and small birds or mammals.
Storks are heavy birds with wide wingspans. The Marabou Stork, with a 3.2 m (10.5 ft) wingspan shares the distinction of "longest wingspan of any landbird" with the Andean Condor.
They tend to use soaring, gliding flight, which conserves their expenditure of energy. Soaring requires thermal air currents. Ottomar AnschŘtz's famous 1884 albumen photographs of storks inspired the design and engineering of aviation pioneer Otto Lilienthal's experimental gliders of the late 19th century.
Wintering storks of some migratory species tend to congregate en masse if there is a swarm of insects or other abundant prey to feed upon.
Their nests are often very large, some having been known to grow to over 2m (6 feet) diameter and about 3m (10 feet) in depth. A stork's nest may be utilized for many years.
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.
Their size, serial_monogamy, faithfulness to an established nesting site contribute to their prominence in myth and culture (see below).
The storks are members of the order Ciconiiformes, along with several other groups of wading birds as shown below:
The species are:
- Milky Stork, Mycteria cinerea
- Yellow-billed Stork, Mycteria ibis
- Painted Stork, Mycteria leucocephala
- Wood Stork, Mycteria americana
- 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
- Black-necked Stork, Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus
- Saddle-billed Stork, Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis
Symbology of storks
The White Stork is the symbol of Poland, where about 25% of European storks breed.
In Western culture the White Stork is a symbol of childbirth. In Victorian times the details of human reproduction were a difficult subject 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.
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, upper lip, and the nape of the neck, which are clusters of developing veins that soon fade, are sometimes still called "stork bites".
"Vlasic" brand pickles in North America use this child-bearing stork as a mascot; in their television advertisement he sounds like Groucho Marx, who smoked a cigar __ another phallic image.
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 embalmed body during the Afterlife.  (http://www.egyptologyonline.com/the_afterlife.htm)
- 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 "kind mother", 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 Ăthiope, 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, in the 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 delivering the infant, an image of childbirth.
- The stork is, apparently, alleged in folklore to be monogamous although this is not a scientific fact. See above. For Early Christians the stork became an emblem of a highly respected "white marriage", i.e. a chaste marraige. This symbolism endured to the 17th century, as in Henry Peacham's emblem book Minerva Britanna (1612) (see link).
- Though "Stork" is rare as an English surname, the Czech surname "Capek" 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, Haenir gives to mankind the spirit gift, the ˇur that includes will and memory and makes us human (see Rydberg link). Hoenir's epithets langifˇtur "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.