Friday, 29 March 2013

White Stork

order : Ciconiiformes      Genus & Species : Ciconiidae     Family : Ciconia ciconia

The white stork’s plumage and graceful stride belie that it’s a deadly predator that kills with lightning strikes of its bill.The white stork has for centuries been a welcome guest in many European villages and towns.They breeds across Europe, from France east to Russia, south to Spain; in North Africa, parts of central Asia, South Africa; winters in Africa, Iran and India. 

Habitat : In summer, the white stork lives in open country. It searches grasslands, meadows and fields of crops or ploughed soil for food and often rests in damp and waterlogged areas that offer cover, such as vegetation around drainage ditches, canals, shallow pools and marshes. It nests and roosts on trees, cliffs, buildings and other man-made structures, such as telegraph poles, water towers and church spires. In its wintering areas, the white stork frequents cultivated fields and grassland in arid, lowland plains.
Food & Feeding : A great opportunist, the white stork eats whatever small prey it comes across. Much of its diet consists of earthworms and large insects, especially beetles, locusts, and grasshoppers; in parts of Africa, it is known as “grasshopper bird.” It also hunts snakes, lizards, frogs, toads and mammals, such as voles, mice, hamsters and moles. The white stork devours most prey whole; it stabs larger victims to death with its pointed bill, before slashing their bodies to devour them piece by piece. When prey is abundant, the stork feeds rapidly: one individual caught and ate 44 mice, two hamsters and a frog, all in one hour.
Behavior : The white stork’s spectacular migrations to and from its winter quarters have been observed since biblical times; these journeys are difficult to miss, as the stork travels in huge flocks of up to 11,000 birds.The flock soars on thermals — spirals of warm air that rise up from ground heated by the sun. There are no thermals over sea, so storks mass together in larger numbers at certain locations to cross stretches of water at their narrowest points: crossing places include the Strait of Gibraltar and the Bosporus — the narrow channel that separates Asia and Europe.
Breeding : By end of February, the first white storks have begun to arrive at the species’southernmost breeding grounds; they may not reach northern and eastern parts of their range until early April. The male is faithful to his old nest rather than a mate; he arrives alone, ready to court the first female that appears. However, some pairs stay together for several seasons. After an energetic display involving head-bowing, neck-stretching and bill-clattering, the female lays an average of four eggs. Both sexes take turns incubating a clutch for over a month. The downy chicks are fed by parents on regurgitated food for about nine weeks. After three more weeks, the chicks are fully independent.

Skull : The stork’s skull is dominated by large eye sockets and, above all, by the heavy upper and lower mandibles of the massive bill.
Plumage : The white stork wears mainly white plumage with bold contrasting black flight feathers.
Wings : The long, broad wings conserve energy during the stork’s migrations by allowing it to glide effortlessly on rising currents of heated air.
Feet : Three forward-pointing toes are webbed at base to support stork’s weight on soft ground; hindtoe is slightly raised to add extra “spring” to its stride.
Legs : Strong, stiltlike legs are adapted for striding through knee-deep grass and wading in shallow water.They also help the stork to make quick progress when searching for prey.

Weight : Male 5.5–9.5 lbs.; female 5–9 lbs.
Length : 3.3–3.8'
Wingspan : 3.8–5.5'
Sexual Maturity : 4 years
Breeding Season : April–July

The white stork reaches speeds of 27 mph during its long migrations.Some small birds, such as sparrows and starlings, use the bulky nest of the white stork as a strong, secure site on which to build their own nest.

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