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  • Sara Thompson

Storks: The Bird and the Myth

By Sara Thompson

Special to the Enterprise

Image credit is Stefan Oemisch, obtained from Wikimedia commons.


Storks are long. Long-legged, long necked, and have a long bill. Their long legs help them with wading around shallow water, their long necks and long bills help them catch their prey. Storks are fully carnivorous, feeding on small reptiles, fish, frogs, small mammals, and any other small animals that will fit in its mouth.


There are about twenty different stork species in the world. The smallest stork, Abdim’s stork, is about two and half feet long, weighs about 2 lbs., and lives in Africa. The largest stork, the Marabou, weight nearly 20 lbs., measures around five feet in length, but its wingspan is almost ten feet wide! The most commonly depicted stork is the White stork, whose size is slightly smaller than the Marabou, and is found mostly in Europe.


Although, storks and cranes look a lot alike, they are separate species. There are several differences between the two species. Storks are shorter than cranes, but slightly heavier. Cranes have an omnivorous diet, but storks are exclusively carnivores. Storks also have larger beaks and a slight webbing between their toes, which is missing in cranes. Cranes build their nests close to the ground, where storks prefer to build their nests onto high platforms. Stork nests can be over six feet in diameter and are often reused and expanded upon each year.


Storks have a common myth associated with them that they bring families their babies. This myth can be found in many places in the world including Europe, North America, parts of Africa, and the Middles East. Because it is found in so many places it is hard to accurately trace exactly where the myth started. One origin of the myth could come from northern Europe. Storks often nest up north during spring and early summer but migrate to northern Africa for the fall and winter, then back again for spring. Many couples would marry around the summer solstice, around the time the birds would be starting their migration south. Between nine to ten months later, the storks would be coming back to the areas to nest while many babies were being born, giving rise to the myth that the storks brought the babies with them on their migration. It was also not uncommon for storks to build their nests on rooftops. This was thought to bring good luck to the family living in the home.



Explorit's coming events:

• Visit our exhibit “Explorit Rocks!”. Open to the public on Fridays from 1-4pm, Saturdays and Sundays from 10am-2pm. Admission is $5 per person. Explorit Members, ASTC, and those age 2 and under free.

• Missed Big Day of Giving? No problem, any time is a great time to donate and help Explorit continue to educate and inspire the scientists of tomorrow: https://www.explorit.org/donate

• A Membership to Explorit grants the recipient free visits to Explorit’s regular public hours, discounts on events, summer camps and workshops, and gives you ASTC benefits to visit other museums throughout the world. To purchase or for more information visit https://www.explorit.org/membership or call Explorit at 530-756-0191.


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