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Aves bird of the week - Black Stork - Ciconia nigra

The Black Stork - Ciconia nigra - is a widespread, but rare, species that breeds in the warmer parts of Europe, predominantly in central and eastern regions. This is a shy and wary species. It is seen in pairs or small flocks—in marshy areas, rivers or inland waters.

The Black Stork resembles the white stork in size, but shines with reddish green tint. It has a white breast, belly, and a white spot under the tail. Its long legs and beak are red. The eyes are greyish green. When in full flight, you see that the underside of the wings is black with a white triangle at the base of the wing. They fly with neck outstretched and have a rasping call.

These storks feed on fish, amphibians, reptiles, shellfish and insects. They mainly eat fish, doing most of its foraging by wading through shallow water, stabbing at prey.

The breeding season is from April to May and it breeds in Japan, north-eastern China and Western Europe. A monogamous solitary nester, possibly with a life-long pair bond. They build a stick nest high in trees or on a cliff face. It lays 2 to 5 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for between 34 to 36 days. The chicks are brooded almost continually for the first 15 days and are fed by both parents. The baby Black Stork is covered with white down and has a yellowish or yellowish orange beak.

The young leave the nest when they are between 60 to 66 days old, becoming fully independent roughly two weeks later.

The main threat to this species is habitat degradation.

Conservation Status Globally – Least Concern.

In South Africa and Namibia a very different picture - In the account for the Black Stork in the Red Data Book from 2000, Keith Barnes wrote: "The Black Stork may suffer a decline in the near future and, owing to its small population, it requires monitoring." This range-change map shows that these were prophetic words. Keith considered that the breeding habitat, in mountainous regions was not threatened, but that the crunch was going to be food: fish, frogs, aquatic invertebrates. "Wetland conversion in the form of degradation of estuaries and highland marshes, the forestation of catchments which reduces water inflow, and the damming of smaller rivers, such as in Lesotho and Mpumalanga, are causes of concern."

SABAP2 (2007–2011) probably represents the first monitoring of the Black Stork since SABAP1 (1987–1991), and the outcome is alarming. The species has not been recorded in SABAP2 in most of its former areas. There are large tracts of its former range where there have been remarkably few SABAP2 records, for example in the Overberg and Swartland areas of the Western Cape. It is remarkable that a species as large and conspicuous as the Black Stork can quietly slip away unnoticed.


These striking storks can be seen on the following Aves Birding Tours/Safaris/Adventures: -

Aves Arid Birding Tour / Safari /Adventure.

Aves Eastern Cape Birding Tour / Safari /Adventure.

Aves Highlands / Tembe Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves KZN Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves North East Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves North West Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves Western Cape Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves West Coast Birding Tour/Safari/Adventure.

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