Ciconia ciconia (White stork)

Witooievaar [Afrikaans]; Ingwamza, Unowanga [Xhosa]; uNogolantethe, uNowanga [Zulu]; Nkumbinkumbi [Kwangali]; Mokoroane (also applied to Black stork), Mokotatsie (also applied to Yellow-billed stork) [South Sotho]; Leakaboswana le leÜweu [North Sotho]; Gumba, Ntsavila, Xaxari [Tsonga]; Lek˘l˘lwane, Mok˘tatsiŕ (these terms also applied to Abdim's stork [Tswana]; (gewone) ooievaar [Dutch]; Cigogne blanche [French]; Wei▀storch [German]; Cegonha-branca [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Ciconiiformes > Family: Ciconiidae

Ciconia ciconia (White stork)

White storks. [photo H. Robertson, Iziko ę]

Ciconia ciconia (White stork)

Ciconia ciconia (White stork)

White stork. [photo Neil Gray ę]

White stork, Ntsikeni Nature Reserve, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ę]

Distribution and habitat

Breeds in parts of Eurasia and North Africa, heading south in the non-breeding season to sub-Saharan Africa. In southern Africa, it is common to abundant in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique and South Africa, largely excluding the arid Karoo. It has a small breeding population in the Western Cape. It generally prefers open woodland, grassy Karoo, grassland, wetlands and cultivated land.

Distribution of White stork in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (ę Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

Mostly a palearctic breeding migrant, leaving its Eurasian breeding grounds to travel south all the way to southern Africa, where it stays from October-May. It is also a breeding resident in parts of the Western Cape, from the Agulhas Plain to Mossel Bay, although juveniles may join migrants in their trip north.


It eats a variety of insects and small vertebrates, doing most of its foraging in spread out groups, slowly moving through vegetation in search of prey. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Invertebrates
    • insects
      • caterpillars (larval stage of Lepidoptera)
        • Spodoptera exempta (Armyworms)
        • Heliothis armigera (American bollworm)
        • Imbrasia belina (Mopane emperor moth)
      • Orthoptera (crickets, locusts and grasshoppers)
        • Locustana pardalina (Brown locust)
    • molluscs
    • scorpions
  • Vertebrates
    • mice
    • small reptiles
    • amphibians
    • fish
    • carrion
    • bird chicks


  • Monogamous solitary nester. The male selects a nest site and often mates with the first female to arrive.
  • The nest (see image below) is built by both sexes in roughly a week, consisting of a large platform of reeds, sticks and clods of earth and grass. It is typically placed on a tree in an open area, especially on an alien tree such as Rooikrans (Acacia cyclops), Eucalyptus or White milkwood (Sideroxylon inerme); it also uses man-made structures, such as broken chimneys.
Ciconia ciconia (White stork) Ciconia ciconia (White stork)

White stork adult and chick, sitting on their nest. [photo Peter Steyn]

White storks at their nest, Spain. [photo Mike Grimes ę]

  • Egg-laying season is from September-November.
  • It lays 1-6 eggs, which are incubated by incubated by both sexes for roughly 30 days.
  • The chicks are fed by both parents and brooded for up to ten days, leaving the nest at about 45-70 days old and becoming fully independent roughly 7-20 days later.


Not globally threatened, although its breeding range has decreased in Europe.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 

  • Harrison, J.A., Allan, D.G., Underhill, L.G., Herremans, M., Tree. A.J., Parker, V. & Brown, C.J. (eds). 1997. The atlas of southern African birds. Vol. 2: Passerines. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg.



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