1902 Encyclopedia > Stork


STORK (A.S. Storc; Germ. Storch), the Ciconia alba of ornithology, and, through picture and story, one of the best known of foreign birds; for, though often visiting Britain, it has never been a native or even inhabitant of the country. It is a summer-visitant 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. [577-1] It reappears again in Asia Minor, the Caucasus, Persia, and Turkestan, but further 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, [577-2] 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. [577-3] 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 j 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 the 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. This 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, C. maguari, [577-4] 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.

Shoe-Bill or Whale-Headed Stork. (After Wolf in Trans. Zool. Soc.)

The Storks form the Pelargi of Nitzsch, as separated by him from the Herons and the Ibises, but all three are united by Prof. Huxley in his group Pelargomorphae. The relations of the Storks to the Herons may be doubtful; but there is no doubt that the former include the JABIRU (vol. xiii. p. 529) and its allies, as well as the curious genus Anastomus (with its lower mandible hol-lowed out so as only to meet the maxilla at the base and the tip), of which there are an African and an Asiatic species. Two other remarkable forms probably belong to the Pelargi. These are Balaeniceps rex and Scopus umbretta, each the sole member of its own genus, and both from Africa. The former, first brought to Europe by Mr M. Parkyns from the White Nile, was regarded by Gould, who described it in the Zoological Proceedings (1851, pp. 1, 2, pi. xxxv.), as an abnormal Pelican. This view was disputed by Reinhardt (op. cit., 1860, p. 377), and wholly dispelled by Prof. Parker in the Zoological Transactions (iv. pp. 269-351), though these two authors disagreed as to its affinities, the first placing it with the Storks, the last assigning it to the Herons. In singularity of aspect few birds surpass Balaeniceps, with its gaunt grey figure, some five feet in height, its large head surmounted by a little curled tuft, the scowling expression of its eyes, and its huge bill in form not unlike a whale's head—this last suggesting its generic name—but tipped with a formidable hook. The shape of the bill has also prompted the Arabs to call it, according to their idiom, the "Father of a Shoe," and it has been designated " Shoe-bill" in English. [578-1] The other form that remains to be noticed is the Scopus umbretta of ornithologists, called the "Umbre" by Pennant. This was discovered by Adanson the French traveller in Senegal about the middle of the last century, and was described by Brisson in 1760. It has since been found to inhabit nearly the whole of Africa and Madagascar, and is the "Hammerkop" (Hammerhead) of the Cape colonists. Though not larger than a Raven, it builds an enormous nest, some six feet in diameter, with a flat-topped roof and a small hole for entrance and exit, and placed either on a tree or a rocky ledge. The bird, of an almost uniform brown colour, slightly glossed with purple, and its tail barred with black, has a long occipital crest, generally borne horizontally, so as to give rise to its common name. It is somewhat sluggish by day, but displays much activity at dusk, when it will go through a series of strange performances. In all the Storks, so far as is known, the eggs are white, and in most forms distinguishable by the grain of their shell, which, without being rough, is closely pitted with pore-like depressions. (A. N.)


577-1 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.

577-2 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.

577-3 Its common Dutch name is Ooijevaar, which can be traced through many forms (Koolmann, Wörterb. d. Ostfries. Sprache, i. p. 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.

577-4 This was formerly believed to have occurred in Europe, but erroneously, as was shewn by Schlegel (Rev. Critique, p. 104).

578-1 Under one or other of these names it is mentioned by many African travellers; but the best account of it is that given by Von Heuglin (Orn. Nordost-Afrika's, pp. 1095-1099). In 1860 two living birds were brought to England by Mr Petherick and exhibited in the Zoological Gardens.

The above article was written by: Alfred Newton, F.R.S., Professor of Zoology, University of London.

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-23 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries