White Stork (Ciconia ciconia)

White Stork

[order] CICONIIFORMES | [family] Ciconiidae | [latin] Ciconia ciconia | [authority] Linnaeus, 1758 | [UK] White Stork | [FR] Cigogne blanche | [DE] Weissstorch | [ES] Ciguena Blanca | [NL] Ooievaar


Monotypic species


Storks are rather well represented in the world fossil record, although no comprehensive review of them has been attempted. The earliest records come from the Late Eocene of Egypt. After taxa incorrectly referred to this family were removed, the earliest named species became Palaeoephippiorhynchus dietrichi Lambrecht, 1930 (Late Oligocene; Egypt). The stork family (Ciconiidae) includes 17-19 species, depending upon which classification is followed. They are widely distributed, mainly in the Old World Tropics. Being large, conspicuous, and easily observed, storks are well known birds throughout their range. Several populations are threatened or endangered. The seven species of “typical” storks of the genus ciconia are all somewhat similar, with mainly black-and-white plumage and straight bills.

Physical charateristics

White storks are large, wading birds. They are covered in white feathers, except for the black primary feathers on their wings. They have long, sharp bills, and slender legs that are bright orange. Hatchlings and young have black bills and yellowish gray legs. Adults stand from 100 to 115 cm stall, with half of that height being made up by the legs. Their wingspan is 155 to 165 cm. Males are larger, on average, than females but both sexes are identical in plumage.

Listen to the sound of White Stork

[audio:http://www.planetofbirds.com/MASTER/CICONIIFORMES/Ciconiidae/sounds/White Stork.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

recorded by Niels Krabbe

wingspan min.: 180 cm wingspan max.: 215 cm
size min.: 95 cm size max.: 110 cm
incubation min.: 33 days incubation max.: 34 days
fledging min.: 58 days fledging max.: 34 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 6  


Eurasia : Europe


White storks inhabit open wetlands, savannas, steppes, meadows, pastures, and agricultural fields throughout their range. They prefer areas with shallow, standing water that are not too cold or humid. Their habitat preferences coincide with human preferences for agricultural areas and settlements, resulting in a long-term commensalism. During the breeding season, white storks also seek out areas with suitable structures on which to build nests, especially sunny sites on tall trees or rooftops. They have also been known to nest on walls, stacks of hay and straw, ruins, chimneys, and artificial nesting platforms.


During the breeding season, the white stork often forms loose informal colonies; up to nine pairs have been seen on one single rooftop. The male and female will stay together for the whole season but do not migrate together; if they reform their partnership in successive years it is typically due to attachment to the nest site rather than each other. Males will often arrive first and vigorously defend the nest site from intruders. The subsequent arrival of the female will initiate a fascinating and intricate courtship display involving the male shaking its ruff and vigorously bobbing its head. The pair will then build a huge, complex nest, with some reaching over two metres wide and three metres deep. Made from sticks, grass and other foliage, the nest is situated high up off the ground, and completion of the nest is often signified by placing one leafy branch on the top of the nest. The female will lay three to five eggs of a chalky-white colour which are incubated for 33 to 34 days. The chicks are fed by both parents via regurgitation and will eat up to 60 percent of their body weight each day, until around nine weeks of age when the chicks leave the nest. The white stork is believed to reach sexual maturity at around four years of age and live for up to 33 years.

Feeding habits

Fish, frogs also amphibia, insects, snails, crabs and small reptiles, mammals and birds.
Usually forages in shallow water, catching prey with a sharp stab of bill.

Video White Stork


copyright: youtube


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
European white storks breed throughout Europe, North Africa, Asia Minor, and the Middle East, although they have a fairly fragmented distribution within that large area. Breeding populations have been extirpated from many areas of Europe historically. They migrate into tropical Africa, parts of the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent during the winter.
White Stork status Least Concern


Migratory. Highly dependent on soaring and thus thermals, crossing deserts, but avoiding large bodies of water and extensive forests. Migration of European birds very well known; populations of race ciconia from SE Palearctic may winter mostly from Iran to India. Birds winter in India Sept/Oct-Mar/Apr; one stork ringed in Germany was recovered in NW India. Most migration takes place from mid-morning to early afternoon.

Distribution map

White Stork distribution range map


Title Development of thermoregulatory ability during ontogeny in the White Stork Ciconia ciconia
Author(s): Tortosa, F. S. & Castro. F
Abstract: The development of thermoregulation abilities in W..[more]..
Source: Ardeola 50(1), 2003, 39-45

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Title Condition-dependent parental effort and reproductive performance in the White Stork Ciconia ciconia
Author(s): Sasvari L. & Hegyi Z.
Abstract: Relationships between the parental quality and rep..[more]..
Source: ARDEA 89 (2): 281-291.

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Title Resource-dependent weather effect in the reproduction of the White Stork Ciconia ciconia.
Author(s): Denac D.
Abstract: Weather affects the breeding success of White Stor..[more]..
Source: ARDEA 94 (2): 233-240

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Title Variation of primary production during winter induces synchrony in survival rates in migratory white storks Ciconia ciconia
Abstract: The environmental conditions that migratory birds ..[more]..
Source: Journal of Animal Ecology 74 (4), 656-666

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Title Feeding in urban refuse dumps: ingestion of plastic objects by the White Stork (Ciconia ciconia)
Author(s): Peris, S. J.
Abstract: […]. According to our data, refuse dumps provide..[more]..
Source: Ardeola 50(1), 2003, 81-84

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Title Effects of power lines on a White Stork Ciconia ciconia population in central Spain
Author(s): Garrido, J. R. & Fernandez-Cruz, M.
Abstract: The aims of this article are 1) to study the effec..[more]..
Source: Ardeola 50(2), 2003, 191-200

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Title Variable inter-annual relationships between T-cell mediated immunity and individual traits in White Storks
Author(s): Roger Jovani, Jose Luis Tella, Guillermo Blanco & Marcelo Bertellotti
Abstract: Aims: The PHA skin-testing technique has become a ..[more]..
Source: Ardeola 51(2), 2004, 357-364

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Title Migratory orientation of first-year white storks (Ciconia ciconia): inherited information and social interactions
Author(s): Nikita Chernetsov, Peter Berthold, and Ulrich Querner
Abstract: We used satellite tracking to study the migratory ..[more]..
Source: The Journal of Experimental Biology 207, 937-943

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Title Conservation measures based on migration research in white
storks (Ciconia ciconia, Ciconia boyciana)
Author(s): Peter Berthold, Willem van den Bossche, Mich l Kaatz, Ulrich Querner
Abstract: For over a decade, we have been using satellite tr..[more]..
Source: Acta Zoologica Sinica 52(Supplement): 211-214, 2006

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Title Aggregation size and foraging behavior of White Storks
Author(s): Carrascal L.M., Alonso J.C. & Alonso J.A
Abstract: The foraging behaviour of breeding White Storks Ci..[more]..
Source: ARDEA 78 (3): 399-404

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Title Flight behaviour of White Stork Ciconia ciconia on their migration over southern Israel
Author(s): Liechti F., Ehrich D. & Bruderer B.
Abstract: More than 200 flight paths of White Storks were re..[more]..
Source: ARDEA 84 (1): 3-13.

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Title Time budget, habitat use and breeding success of White Storks Ciconia ciconia under variable foraging conditions during the breeding season in Switzerland.
Author(s): Moritzi M., Maumary L., Schmid D. et al.
Abstract: Following its extinction in 1950, the White Stork ..[more]..
Source: ARDEA 89 (3): 457-470

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