Woolly-necked Stork (Ciconia episcopus)

Woolly-necked Stork

[order] CICONIIFORMES | [family] Ciconiidae | [latin] Ciconia episcopus | [authority] Boddaert, 1783 | [UK] Woolly-necked Stork | [FR] Cigogne episcopale | [DE] Wollhals-Storch | [ES] Ciguena de Cuello Blanco | [NL] Bisschopsooievaar


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

The Woolly-necked Stork is a large bird, typically 85 cm tall. It is all black except for the woolly white neck and white lower belly. The upperparts are glossed dark green, and the breast and belly have a purple hue. Juvenile birds are duller versions of the adult.

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 85 cm size max.: 90 cm
incubation min.: 29 days incubation max.: 33 days
fledging min.: 53 days fledging max.: 57 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 5  


Africa, Oriental Region : widespread


The species shows a preference for natural wetland habitats in savanna and grassland, including rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, water-holes, lagoons, dams, flood plains, marshes, and freshwater and peat swamp forests, although it will also use artificial habitats such as rice paddy-fields, flooded pastures, cultivated fields, golf courses, firebreaks and roads in tree and sugar-cane plantations (particularly when they are flooded). It generally avoids forests, but is occasionally found in light woodland or forest clearings. It also frequents coastal mudflats or coral reefs, mangrove swamps and estuaries, and can be found up to 1,400 m in Sulawesi, 1250 m in Nepal and up to 3000 m in East Africa.


The species breeds in solitary pairs, although these pairs may nest close together in East Africa1 and loose colonies of up to 4-5 nests are occasionally reported. The nest is a large stick platform built 10-30 m (and sometimes up to 50 m) above the ground or over water, on a fork of a horizontal branch in a tall tree. Both sexes incubating for upto 31 days. The young can fly at around 55 days

Feeding habits

The species is predominantly carnivorous, its diet consisting of fish, frogs, toads, snakes, lizards, large insects and larvae1 (e.g. termite alates and army worms Spodoptera exempta), crabs, molluscs and marine invertebrates.

Video Woolly-necked Stork


copyright: Josep del Hoyo


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). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to 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.
The overall population trend is decreasing, although some populations have unknown trends. The main threat to this species in South East Asia is severe habitat fragmentation. The species has also suffered population reductions as a result of habitat destruction and shooting.
Woolly-necked Stork status Least Concern


This species is predominantly sedentary, although it may make migratory north-south movements in Africa. In India the species tends to breed during the rains (between July and September in the south and December to March in the north), whereas in Africa it mainly breeds during the dry season (apart from the population in northern Sudan which breeds during the rains).

Distribution map

Woolly-necked Stork distribution range map

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