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Stork facts for kids

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Painted Stork
Scientific classification

Gray, 1840

Storks are a family of birds (Ciconiidae). They usually live near shallow bodies of water where they wade through the water, and catch small animals, like frogs, crabs, or small fish. Many species of stork are migratory, they spend the summer and the winter in different places.

There are 19 different species of stork, in 6 genera. The Marabou Stork is the largest species of stork. The Abdim's stork is the smallest species of stork

Storks tend to use soaring, gliding flight, which conserves energy. Soaring requires thermal air currents.

Probably the best known stork is the White Stork. It is known to build large nests in high places, like on chimneys. Their nests are often very large and may be used for many years.

The Marabou Stork, which lives in Africa, has a wingspan of up to 320 centimetres (10.5 ft). This makes it the largest bird still alive, together with the Andean Condor.


Yellow-billed Stork (Mycteria ibis) (12011503884)
Mycteria storks, like this yellow-billed stork, have sensitive bills that allow them to hunt by touch

Storks are large to very large waterbirds.

The bills of the storks are large to very large. The shape of the bills is linked to the diet of the different species.

Storks capable of making some sounds, although they do not do so often. They often clatter their beaks as a means of communication.

Distribution and habitat

Lesser Adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus) - Flickr - Lip Kee (4)
Lesser adjutants will forage in marine habitats, unlike most storks
Marabou stork at Etosha National Park, Namibia
Marabou stork at Etosha National Park in Namibia

Storks are absent from the poles, most of North America and large parts of Australia. They are mainly 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 tallest flying bird of the Americas. Two species, white 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.

Storks are more diverse and common in the tropics where there are temperate climatesand plenty of water. Less typical habitats include the dense temperate forests used by European black storks, or the rainforest habitat sought by Storm's stork in South East Asia.

Abdim's Stork (Ciconia abdimii) (7011390701)
Abdim's storks are regular intra-African migrants

Temperate species like the white stork, black stork and Oriental stork undertake long annual migrations in the winter. The routes taken by these species have developed to avoid long distance travel across water, and from Europe this usually means flying across the Straits of Gibraltar or east across the Bosphorus and through Israel and the Sinai.

Many species that aren't regular migrants will still make smaller movements if circumstances require it; others may migrate over part of their range. This can also include regular commutes from nesting sites to feeding areas. Wood storks have been observed feeding 130 km (81 mi) from their breeding colony.


Feeding and diet

African openbill, Anastomus lamelligerus, Chobe National Park, Botswana (32390774275)
African openbill foraging in shallow water

The storks are carnivorous, taking a range of reptiles, small mammals, insects, fish, amphibians and other small invertebrates. Any plant material consumed is usually by accident.

Openbills are specialists in freshwater molluscs, particularly apple snails. They feed in small groups, sometimes African openbills ride on the backs of hippos while foraging. Having caught a snail it will return to land or at least to the shallows to eat it.


Painted Stork (Mycteria leucocephala) nesting in Garapadu, AP W IMG 5290
Painted storks at a colony

Many of the species breed in colonies with other waterbirds, which can include other species of storks, herons and egrets, pelicans, cormorants and ibises. White storks, Oriental storks and Maguari storks breed in nests that are within visual range of others of the same species, but have little to do with one another. They also may nest alone.

In fiction

The Stork has many stories surrounding it, like in Aesop's (6th century BCE) fables The Farmer and the Stork and The Fox and the Stork.

The first fable begins with a farmer plowing his fields, sowing his seeds and spreading his nets, these nets caught several cranes who hopped behind him picking up the seed. Along with the cranes tangled in his net the farmer discovered a stork with a broken leg. The stork begged the farmer to spare his life, arguing that he was not a crane, but a stork. He pointed to his feathers and told the farmer that they didn’t resemble a crane’s feathers in the least. The farmer laughed at the stork and said, “I have taken you with these robbers, the cranes, and you must die in their company.”

A common legend is that storks deliver babies to their mothers.


Ciconia nigra 1 (Marek Szczepanek)
Black stork (C. nigra)
European white storks in Alsace, France

There are nineteen species of stork. They include:

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