Ciconiidae – Storks

Maguari Stork Ciconia maguari ©James Lowen Website

The Ciconiidae or Storks are large, long-legged, long-necked wading birds with long, stout bills. They are the only family in the order Ciconiiformes, which was once much larger and held a number of families.

Storks dwell in many regions and tend to live in drier habitats than the closely 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 call; bill-clattering is an important mode of communication at the nest. Many species are migratory. Most storks eat frogs, fish, insects, earthworms, small birds and small mammals. There are nineteen living species of storks in six genera.

Various terms are used to refer to groups of storks, two frequently used ones being a muster of storks and a phalanx of storks.

Storks tend to use soaring, gliding flight, which conserves energy. Soaring requires thermal air currents. Storks are heavy, with wide wingspans: the Marabou Stork, with a wingspan of 3.2 metres and weight up to 8kg joins the Andean condor in having the widest wingspan of all living land birds.

Their nests are often very large and may be used for many years. Some nests have been known to grow to over two metres in diameter and about three metres in depth. Storks were once thought to be monogamous, but this is only partially true. They may change mates after migrations, and may migrate without a mate.

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

The centres of stork diversity are in tropical Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, with eight and six breeding species respectively. Just three species are present in the New World: Wood Stork, Maguari Stork and Jabiru, which is the largest flying bird of the Americas. Two species, White Stork and Black Stork, reach Europe and western temperate Asia, while one species, Oriental Stork, reaches temperate areas of eastern Asia, and one species, Black-necked Stork, is found in Australasia (where it is confusingly often called jabiru).

It is generally accepted that there are 19 species of storks in the family Ciconidae; they are:

Wood Stork Mycteria americana
Milky Stork Mycteria cinerea
Yellow-billed Stork Mycteria ibis
Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala

Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans
African Openbill Anastomus lamelligerus

Black Stork Ciconia nigra
Abdim’s Stork Ciconia abdimii
Woolly-necked Stork Ciconia episcopus
Storm’s Stork Ciconia stormi
Maguari Stork Ciconia maguari
White Stork Ciconia ciconia
Oriental Stork Ciconia boyciana

Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus
Saddle-billed Stork Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis

Jabiru Jabiru mycteria

Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus
Greater Adjutant Leptoptilos dubius
Marabou Stork Leptoptilos crumeniferus

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 19

Useful Reading
Other Links
  • Storks Without Borders

    Our site is on satellite tracking of Belgian White Storks. Since 1999, we tracked several storks and followed them by jeep from Belgium to Spain. The sites has recently be translated in English and provides links to stork sites all over the world, including the Oriental White Stork. The movements of the Storks are updated daily…
  • White Storks nest online camera POLAND

    White Storks nest online camera with up to 18x optical zoom - Przygodzice, Barycz Valley, South Wielkopolska region, Poland…
Photographers & Artists
  • Jabiru Jabiru mycteria

    Moving Image

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