STORK (A. S. storc, Ger. Storch), the Ciconia alba of ornithology, a well-known bird, which, however, though often visiting Britain, has never been a native or even inhabitant of that country. It is a summer visitor to most parts of the European continent—the chief exceptions being France (where the native race has been destroyed), Italy and Russia—breeding from southern Sweden to Spain and Greece, and being especially common in Poland. It reappears again in Asia Minor, the Caucasus, Persia and Turkestan, but farther to the eastward it is replaced by an allied species, C. boyciana, which reaches Japan. Though occasionally using trees (as was most likely its original habit) for the purpose, the stork most generally places its nest on buildings, a fact familiar to travellers in Denmark, Holland and Germany, and it is nearly everywhere a cherished guest, popular belief ascribing good luck to the house to which it attaches itself. Its food, consisting mainly of frogs and insects, is gathered in the neighbouring' pastures, across which it may be seen stalking with an air of quiet dignity; but in the season of love it indulges in gestures which can only be called grotesque—leaping from the ground with extended wings in a kind of dance, and, absolutely voiceless as it is, making a loud noise by the clattering of its mandibles. At other times it may be seen gravely resting on one leg on an elevated place, thence to sweep aloft and circle with a slow and majestic flight. Apart from its considerable size—and a stork stands more than three feet in height—its contrasted plumage of pure white and deep black, with its bright red bill and legs, makes it a conspicuous and beautiful object, especially when seen against the fresh green grass of a luxuriant meadow. In winter the storks of Europe retire to Africa—some of them, it would seem, reaching Cape Colony—while those of Asia visit India. A second species, with much the same range, but with none of its relative's domestic disposition, is the black stork, C. nigra, of which the upper parts are black, brilliantly glossed with purple, copper and green, while it is white beneath—the bill and legs, with a patch of bare skin round the eyes, being red. The bird breeds in lofty trees, generally those growing in a large forest. Two other dark-coloured, but somewhat abnormal, species are the purely African C. abdimii and the C. episcopus, which has a wider range, being found not only in Africa but in India, Java and Sumatra. The New World has only one true stork, Dissura maguari, which inhabits South America, and resembles not a little the C. boyciana above mentioned, differing therefrom in its greenish-white bill and black tail. Both these species are very like C. alba, but are larger and have a bare patch of red skin round the eyes.
The storks form the family Ciconiidae, and together with the ibises (Ibididae) are now ranked as a sub-order of Ciconiiform birds (see Bird). There is no doubt that they include the jabiru (q.v.) and its allies, as well as the curious genus Anastomus (known in India as the “open-bill,” because its lower mandible is hollowed out so as only to meet the maxilla at the base and the tip), of which there are an African and an Asiatic species. In all the storks the eggs are white and pitted with granular depressions. (A. N.)
- In that country its numbers are said to have greatly diminished since about 1858, when a disastrous spring storm overtook the homeward-bound birds. The like is to be said of Holland since about 1860.
- To consult its convenience a stage of some kind, often a cartwheel, is in many places set up and generally occupied by successive generations of tenants.
- Its common Dutch name is Ooijevaar, which can be traced through many forms (Koolmann, Wörterb. d. ostfries. Sprache, i. 8, sub voce “Adebar”) to the old word Odeboro (“the bringer of good”). In countries where the stork is abundant it enters largely into popular tales, songs and proverbs, and from the days of Aesop has been a favourite in fable.