The White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) is a large wading bird, 100-125 cm (40-50 in.) tall, with a 155-200 cm (61-79 in) wingspan and a weight of 2.3-4.5 kg (5-10 lbs). It is completely white except for the black wing flight feathers, and its red bill and legs, which are black on juveniles. It walks slowly and steadily on the ground. Like all storks, it flies with its neck outstretched. Notable breeding totals occur mainly in central and eastern Europe, with 52,500 pairs in Poland
White Stork is the national bird of Poland. Poles believe that storks bring harmony to a family on whose property they nest. The Famous polish poet Cyprian Kamil Norwid mentioned polish storks in his poem "My song":
For the land where it's a great travesty
To harm a stork's nest in a pear tree,
For storks serve us all...
I am homesick, Lord!...
Stork is a symbol of a new family start in a new home, good luck and the Messenger of Spring, because it is one of the first birds to return to the country after wintering. According to mythology, the 'stork' is responsible for bringing babies to new parents. This story probably came about because White Storks have a habit of nesting on buildings in urban areas, so they are often seen around human habitation. It is also believed that stork’s nest placed on the roof protects the building from a clap of thunder. This superstition, however, was not confirmed by the facts - about 3 % of stork nestlings are killed by a thunder.
The majority of so called "stork villages", i.e. villages with more then 10 stork nests, may be found in north-east Poland. In southern Podlasie there are over 1300 stork nests. In Lejdy near Bartoszyce there are 8 nests on just one farm, half of them on the same barn. There may even be found villages with more storks than people ! Kłopot, 60 km from Zielona Gora, is another stork village. Ornithologists question themselves why storks have chosen this little village as their habitat. Visitors to Kłopot may check on the White Stork Museum - the only such place in Poland and one of a few in Europe.
Birds, that cannot sing
White storks hardly ever give voice. In the world of birds it is an uncommon situation. Stork’s syrinx - birds’ vocal organ - is so retarded in development that it does not produce sounds. Why are storks so "handicapped"? It is not an impairment but rather economy. In most situations throughout their lives storks do not need vocal communication at all. Storks inhabit open landscape, they are large birds of distinct coloration, so they are well visible even from a distance and find visual signals sufficient to maintain contact with their kindred. Only sometimes, when standing in the nest, stork happens to "say something". Widely known is the ceremony of greeting. Its aim is to recognize partners coming back home, suppress aggression and abstain from the automatic reaction of protecting a nest from intruders. When one stork is standing in the nest and another one flies towards it, they start the ritual of gestures with their heads, necks and wings, accompanied by long, loud clattering of beaks.
Why don't storks fly over the sea?
It is generally known that on their way to wintering sites storks fly over Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel. Why don’t they take a shortcut and fly over the Mediterranean, straight to the Nile? Stork’s wings are built in a way, which allows them to take advantage of the streams of upward moving air. Large wings of a stork “catch” the up going streams of air. Storks travel like gliders, taking advantage of the air movement. However, the resistance caused by such large wings makes it impossible to flap them (Try to flap a glide !). Gliding with wings spread wide means "flying for free", while every flap of a wing costs a lot of energy. Before noon, especially on sunny days, the surface of the earth warms up. Warm earth causes the air to warm up and warm air moves upwards. If a stork finds such a stream of hot air, it can travel for hours without a single flap of wings. It is easy to find warm air over the desert territories of Asia Minor and the Middle East. So, even if the journey is longer, it is energy saving.