Friday, July 29, 2011

Village Storks

If you drive the back roads (and even not-so-back roads) in Spain during the nesting season, you'll still find the iconic village storks, their immense stick nests decorating church steeples and farm houses. These are White Storks, and they have nested in small Spanish villages for as long as there have been villages––and probably since the ice relinquished its grip on Europe!  Twenty-five-million-year-old fossils from either a White or Black Stork have been found in Kenya. Their lineage is ancient.

White Storks (Ciconia ciconia) nest atop a church's bell tower. 
(Photos by Narca)

Chicks are well cared for. Adults were reported by Lefebvre, Nicolakakis and Boire to deliver water to their young by squeezing moss, thereby dripping water into the beaks of their chicks––an example of tool use.

Juvenile White Storks

The enormous nests often turn into apartment houses: smaller birds like House Sparrows and even European Rollers will claim a nook of the nest for themselves.

With a wingspan up to 8 feet across, these huge, heavy birds depend on thermals to carry them on their long-distance migrations. If you were able to fly south with the migrating storks, you might end up on the Serengeti Plains of Tanzania, striding amongst the Wildebeest and towering over thousands of Thomson's Gazelles.

An adult White Stork, dignified and stately

In the Iberian Peninsula, an estimated 40,000 pairs are considered to be secure, although they have suffered some declines due in part to changes in agricultural practices. Elsewhere, storks have declined in many regions. Conservation and reintroduction efforts in Europe are returning storks to former strongholds like the Rhine River Valley, where their population had declined to the point of vanishing. Perhaps a quarter of the world population nests in Poland. Other very strong centers for breeding White Storks are the Ukraine and Lithuania.

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