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Ciconidae Index – Storks
Ciconidae Index - Storks

Ciconidae Index – Storks

Storks are wading birds of the Ciconidae family. They fall under the order Ciconiiformes.

Waders are a diverse group of birds that feed by wading through shallow waters. To facilitate this, they typically have long legs. Many waders also have long, flexible necks and long bills for foraging in water or spearing prey. Birds in this group also include herons, ibises, spoonbills, cranes, and flamingos.

Storks have robust and heavy bills. Their nests are large and are used year after year. They are mute but clack their bills as a means of communication, especially at or near the nest.

Let’s take a look at the different genera and species of storks.

1. Genus Anastomus

The openbills are large wading birds characterized by large bills, the mandibles of which do not meet except at the tip. The cutting edges of the mandibles have a fine brush-like structure that is thought to give them a better grip on shells. This feature develops only in adults.

1.1. African Openbill Stork, Anastomus lamelligerus

African Openbill Stork
Image By Sandy Cole

Description: It has a glossy plumage with hues of green, brown, and purple on the breast. It has a very large, brown bill.

Range: Africa.

Habitat: Swamps, marshes, paddies, ponds, streams, dams, lagoons, mudflats, flood plains, and the shallows of rivers and lakes.

Diet: Mainly Mollusks, but also crustaceans, amphibians, worms, and large insects.

Conservation status: Least concern.

African Openbill Stork closeup
Image By Charlie Westerinen
African Openbill Stork habitat
Image By Dick Daniels

1.2. Asian Openbill Stork, Anastomus oscitans

Asian Openbill Stork
Image By Charlie Westerinen

Description: The Asian openbill stork has a mainly gray plumage and a glossy black tail and wings with a green or purple sheen.

Range: Asia.

Habitat: Wetlands, cultivated fields, marshes, lakes, and farmlands.

Diet: Mainly mollusks, but also reptiles, amphibians, and large insects.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Asian Openbill Stork closeup
Image By JJ Harrison
Asian Openbill Stork habitat
Image By Charlie Westerinen

2. Genus Ciconia

These are large storks, with long thick bills. Ciconia storks are gregarious and colonial breeders, and pairs stay together for life. They typically build large stick nests in trees. These storks feed on frogs, insects, young birds, lizards, and rodents.

2.1. Abdim’s Stork, Ciconia abdimii

Abdim’s Stork
Image By Dick Daniels

Description: This is the smallest stork. It is mostly black with a white belly. It has gray legs with red knees. Its bill is gray, and during the breeding season, it has red skin in front of eyes, and blue skin on the face.

Range: Africa.

Habitat: Open areas such as grasslands, open woodlands, wetlands, and fields.

Diet: Mainly large insects, but also small reptiles, amphibians, mice, crabs, and eggs.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Abdim’s Stork habitat
Image By Ian White
Abdim’s Stork closeup
Image By Christian Kooyman
Abdim’s Stork feathering
Image By Dick Daniels
Abdim’s Stork near the water
Image By Sandy Cole

2.2. Black Stork, Ciconia nigra

Black Stork
Image By Sergey Pisarevskiy

Description: The black stork has mainly black plumage, with a white lower breast, belly, and under-tail coverts. It has red facial skin, a red bill, and red legs. It is similar to the black-necked stork, but the latter has a white back and a black bill.

Range: Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australasia.

Habitat: Wetlands near wooded areas, upland creeks, ponds, river edges, lakesides, and estuaries.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Black Stork habitat
Image By Cristiano Crolle
Black Stork in flight
Image By JV Verde

2.3. Maguari Stork, Ciconia maguari

Maguari Stork
Image By Claudio Timm

Description: It has mainly white plumage, black flight feathers, and a forked black tail visible in flight. It has orange-red lores and a gray bill with a red tip.

Range: South America.

Habitat: Wetlands, wet, savannah, grasslands, marshes, mudflats, and flooded fields.

Diet: Fish, frogs, eels, worms, insects, crabs, snakes, rodents, and bird eggs.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Maguari Stork closeup
Image By Claudio Timm
Maguari Stork distribution
Image By Claudio Timm
Maguari Stork feathering
Image By Claudio Timm
Maguari Stork in flight
Image By Christiano Crolle

2.4. Oriental Stork, Ciconia boyciana

Oriental Stork
Image By Hiyashi Haka

Description: The Oriental Stork has mainly white plumage, black wings, red legs, red lores, and a blackish bill. It is similar to the white stork, but the latter has a reddish bill.

Range: Asia.

Habitat: Wetlands, wooded marshes, tidal flats, flooded grasslands, estuaries, and riverbanks.

Diet: Fish, frogs, reptiles, insects, and small birds and rodents.

Conservation status: The oriental stork is endangered due to unsustainable hunting and habitat loss.

Oriental Stork habitat
Image By Spaceaero
Oriental Stork in flight
Image By Hiyashi Haka

2.5. Storm’s Stork, Ciconia stormi

Storm’s Stork
Image By Sandy Cole

Description: The Storm’s Stork has mainly black plumage and a white neck. It has a red bill and orange facial skin with yellow around the eyes. Its legs are red.

Range: Borneo, Malaysia, and Brunnei.

Habitat: Riverine forests and swamp forests.

Diet: Mainly fish, frogs, reptiles, worms, aquatic insects, and their larvae.

Conservation status: The Storm’s stork is endangered due to habitat loss.

Storm’s Stork closeup
Image By Nathan Rupert
Storm’s Stork habitat
Image By Mark Lewis Benedict

2.6. White Stork, Ciconia ciconia

White Stork
Image By Dick Daniels

Description: The White Stork has mainly white plumage and black wings. It has red legs and a red bill. It is similar to the oriental stork, but the latter has a blackish bill.

Range: Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Habitat: Meadows, farmlands, shallow wetlands, and seasonally flooded grasslands.

Diet: Insects, earthworms, reptiles, amphibians, and rodents.

Conservation status: Least concern.

White Stork closeup
Image By Sandy Cole
White Stork chicks
Image By Charlie Westerinen
White Stork habitat
Image By Cristiano Crolle
White Stork flying
Image By JV Verde

2.7. Woolly Stork (Woolly-Necked Stork), Ciconia episcopus

Woolly Stork
Image By Kaipally

Description: The woolly stork has a glossy blackish-green body plumage, a black crown, and a white neck and lower belly. It has red legs.

Range: Asia and Africa.

Habitat: A wide range of habitats throughout their range, including wetlands, forests, marshes, croplands, irrigation canals, rivers, and ponds. They also occur in coastal environments where they inhabit mudflats and reefs.

Diet: Amphibians, reptiles, insects, fish, crustaceans, and rodents.

Conservation status: The woolly stork is classified as near-threatened and is at risk due to habitat destruction.

Woolly Stork closeup
Image By Ian White
Woolly Stork in flight
Image By Lip Kee Yap

3. Genus Ephippiorhynchus

Two species of very large storks, both with impressive bills.

3.1. Black-Necked Stork, Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus

Black-Necked Stork
Image By Ralph Green

Description: The black-necked stork has a black neck, head, bill, secondary flight feathers, and tail. And a white back and belly. It has red legs. The male has brown eyes, and the female has yellow eyes. It is similar to the black stork, but the latter has a black back and a red bill.

Range: Asia and Australasia.

Habitat: Wetlands, marshes, swamps, lakes, ponds, flooded grasslands, and wet meadows. They also occur in ride paddies, agricultural fields, and canals. In some regions, they can be found in coastal environments.

Diet: Waterbirds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, crustaceans, and mollusks.

Conservation status: The black-necked stork is classified as near-threatened due to habitat destruction, overfishing, pollution, collision with power lines, and unsustainable hunting.

Black-Necked Stork juvenile
Juvenile (Image By Arthur Chapman)
Black-Necked Stork adult
Image By J.M. Garg
Black-Necked Stork habitat
Image By David Cook
Black-Necked Stork in flight
Image By Dick Daniels

3.2. Saddle-Billed Stork, Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis

Saddle-Billed Stork
Image By Steve Garvie

Description: The saddle-billed stork is a striking bird. Its plumage is iridescent black and white. It has a massive bill which is mostly red with a black band and a yellow frontal shield. It has black legs with pink knees.

Range: Africa.

Habitat: Large open water bodies such as rivers and vast wetlands.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Saddle-Billed Stork closeup
Image By Arno Meintjies
Saddle-Billed Stork habitat
Image By Arno Meintjies

4. Genus Leptoptilos

The three species each have a black upper body and wings and a white belly and undertail. The head and neck are bare like those of a vulture. The huge bill is long and thick. Juveniles are a duller, browner version of the adult.

4.1. Greater Adjutant, Leptoptilos dubius

Greater Adjutant
Image By Manvendra Bhangui

Description: A vulture-like stork with dark gray upperparts and white underparts. It has a massive, wedge-shaped bill, a bare crown, and a distinctive neck pouch which is bright orange in the breeding season. It is similar to the lesser adjutant, but the latter has no pouch.

Range: India.

Habitat: Wetlands and dry or shallows lakes. They frequent garbage dumps.

Diet: They are primarily scavengers, but also prey on frogs, insects, reptiles, rodents, and other birds.They also eat carrion, food scraps, and even feces.

Conservation status: Historically, the greater adjutant was hunted, and eggs were unsustainably harvested. This contributed greatly to the decline of the species. Today the main threat is habitat destruction.

Greater Adjutant closeup
Image By Pandiyan
Greater Adjutant habitat
Image By Yathin

4.2. Lesser Adjunct, Leptoptilos javanicus

Lesser Adjunct
Image By Steve Garvie

Description: The Lesser Adjunct has dark gray upperparts and white underparts. It has a pale, wedge-shaped bill, a bare crown, and its neck becomes bright yellow during the breeding season. It is similar to the greater adjutant but the latter has a neck pouch.

Range: Asia.

Habitat: Wetlands, agricultural fields, wooded areas near rivers, mudflats, and mangroves.

Diet: Fish, frogs, reptiles, rodents, mollusks, crustaceans, small mammals, and sometimes carrion.

Conservation status: The lesser adjutant isclassified as vulnerable, and is under pressure due to habitat destruction and unsustainable hunting.

Lesser Adjunct habitat
Image By Jason Thompson
Lesser Adjunct closeup
Image By Lip Kee Yap

4.3. Marabou Stork, Leptoptilos crumeniferus

Marabou Stork
Image By Dick Daniels

Description: The marabou stork is a vulture-like bird with dark gray to black upperparts, white underparts, a bare head, neck, and a pink throat sack. It has a huge bill.

Range: Africa.

Habitat: Wet and semi-arid environments including wetlands, grasslands, and savannah.

Diet: Mainly carrion, food scraps, and feces, but also fish, frogs, insects, eggs, small mammals, birds, and reptiles.

Conservation status: least concern.

Marabou Stork habitat
Image By Dick Daniels
Marabou Stork feathering
Image By Dick Daniels

5. Genus Mycteria

The Mycteria storks are large birds, typically around 90–100 cm in length with a 150 cm wingspan. The body plumage is mainly white in all the species, with black in the flight feathers of the wings.

5.1. Milky Stork, Mycteria cinerea

Milky Stork
Image By DChai21

Description: The Milky Stork has mainly white plumage with a greenish-black tail and flight feathers. It has a bare red face with black markings on its lores.

Range: Asia.

Habitat: Coastal habitats such as mangroves and estuaries. They also occur in swamps.

Diet: Fish (especially mudskippers), snakes, frogs, eels, and shrimp.

Conservation status: Milky storks are endangered due to habitat loss.

Milky Stork closeup
Image By Sergey Pisarevskiy
Milky Stork habitat
Image By Lip Kee Yap
Milky Stork adult
Image By Aiza Zainol

5.2. Painted Stork, Mycteria leucocephala

Painted Stork
Image By Mdemon

Description: The painted stork is mainly white with greenish-black flight feathers, and a black breast band with white barring. It has a bare orange face and a long, yellow bill.

Range: Asia.

Habitat: Wetlands, irrigation canals, croplands, and rice paddies.

Diet: Fish, reptiles, crustaceans, amphibians, and insects.

Conservation status: Near-threatened due to habitat loss, nest disturbance, unsustainable hunting, and egg collection.

Painted Stork closeup
Image By Raul654
Painted Stork habitat
Image By Bhardwaj Shanthanu

5.3. Wood Stork, Mycteria americana

Wood Stork
Image By Dick Daniels

Description: The wood stork is mainly white with a dark brown, bald head and a black bare-skinned face. The trailing edge of the wings is black. It has blackish-gray legs and pink feet.

Range: The Americas.

Habitat: Wetlands, estuaries, mangroves, and river edges.

Diet: Fish, insects, crustaceans, and amphibians.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Wood Stork closeup
Image By Dick Daniels
Wood Stork habitat
Image By Dick Daniels

5.4. Yellow-Billed Stork, Mycteria ibis

Yellow-Billed Stork
Image By Nik Borrow

Description: The yellow-billed stork has mainly pinkish-white plumage, black wings, and a black tail. It has an orange face and a yellow bill. Its legs are reddish. The juvenile has grayish-brown plumage, a dull orange face, and brownish legs.

Range: Africa.

Habitat: Wetlands, shallow lakes, and tidal flats.

Diet: Fish, crustaceans, frogs, worms, insects, and small mammals and birds.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Yellow-Billed Stork closeup
Image By Dick Daniels
Yellow-Billed Stork habitat
Image By Dick Daniels

5.5. Jabiru Stork, Jabiru mycteria

Jabiru Stork
Image By David Schenfeld

Description: The Jabiru stork has mainly white plumage, a bare, black head and neck, and a red neck pouch.

Range: Central and South America.

Habitat: Wetlands, marshes, swamps, ponds, lagoons, estuaries, river edges, and lakesides.

Diet: Fish, mollusks, amphibians, bird eggs, and small mammals.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Jabiru Stork closeup
Image By Claudio Timm
Jabiru Stork in flight
Image By Allan Hopkins
Jabiru Stork habitat
Image By Claudio Timm

Conclusion

Storks are well-known wading birds with a prominent place in human culture. They have long been the subject of myth, legend, and folklore and feature in some famed literary works.

Many stork species are at risk due to habitat loss. A major issue is the draining and destruction of wetland habitats upon which many species depend. Another habitat-related threat is pollution. They are also impacted by human disturbance around their nesting sites, unsustainable hunting, and the collection of eggs. Several species are placed under protection and classified as vulnerable, near-threatened, or endangered.