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White Stork

The White Stork is a large wading bird in the stork family Ciconiidae, breeding in the warmer parts of Europe, northwest Africa, and southwest Asia. It is a strong migrant, wintering mainly in tropical Africa, down to the south of South Africa, and also in the Indian subcontinent.

It is a huge 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. It flies with its neck outstretched.

Notable breeding totals occur mainly in central and eastern Europe. There exist around 5,000 of pairs in Romania.

White Storks rely on movement between thermals of hot air for long distance flight, taking great advantage of them during annual migrations between Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa. The shortest route south would take them over the Mediterranean, but since thermals only form over land, storks take a detour. The options are limited, because to the east lies the Arabian Desert, where it is difficult to find food and water - and to the west lies the Atlantic Ocean. This leaves two narrow migration corridors: eastern storks cross the straits of Bosporus to Turkey, traverse the Levant (Syria-Lebanon-Israel-Palestine), and then bypass the Sahara Desert by following the Nile. Any way, the storks can get help from the thermals for almost the entire trip and thus save energy.

White storks breed in open farmland areas with access to marshy wetlands, building a stick nest in trees, on buildings, or special platforms. Because it is viewed as bird of good luck, it is not persecuted, and often nests close to human habitation. In southern Europe, storks' nests can be seen on churches and other buildings. It often forms small colonies. Like most of its relatives, it feeds on fish, frogs and insects but also eats small reptiles, rodents and smaller birds.

The white stork is almost silent except for the noisy mutual bill-clattering when adults meet at the nest.