Ciconia episcopus (Woolly-necked stork) 

Wolnekooievaar [Afrikaans]; isiThandamanzi [Zulu]; Endongondongo (generic term for dark-coloured storks) [Kwangali]; Bisschopsooievaar [Dutch]; Cigogne épiscopale [French]; Wollhalsstorch [German]; Cegonha-episcopal [Portuguese]

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Ciconia episcopus (Woolly-necked stork)  Ciconia episcopus (Woolly-necked stork) 
Ciconia episcopus (Woolly-necked stork) 
Woolly-necked stork, Mtunzini, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©] Woolly-necked storks. [photo Jeff Poklen ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs from India and Sri Lanka to the Philippines, with a separate population in sub-Saharan Africa. In southern Africa, it is uncommon in Mozambique, northern and southern Zimbabwe, northern Botswana, northern Namibia (including the Caprivi Strip) and eastern South Africa. It can occupy almost any wetland habitat, generally preferring flood plains, rivers, pans, ponds, dams, lagoons, swamp forests, mangrove swamps, tidal mudflats, estuaries and also man-made habitats, including golf courses, firebreaks and roads in plantations.

Distribution of Woolly-necked stork in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© 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

Little known, as it is thought to be resident in eastern South Africa and parts of Mozambique and Botswana, while a non-breeding visitor to northern Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique, staying from about November-April.


It mainly eats insects and other invertebrates, doing most of its foraging by slowly walking through water or vegetation, stabbing at prey. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Invertebrates
    • insects and their larvae
    • molluscs
    • worms
    • crabs
  • Vertebrates
    • fish
    • frogs
      • Schismaderma carens (Red toad)
    • lizards
    • snakes


  • Monogamous and usually a solitary nester, although it may breed in loose colonies of 4-5 pairs.
  • The nest is built by both sexes, consisting of a platform of sticks with a central bowl lined with fine twigs, grass and green leaves. It is typically placed in the fork of a horizontal branch of a large tree, 10-50 metres above ground or water.
  • Egg-laying season is from August-December.
  • It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 30-31 days.
  • The chicks are fed and brooded by both parents, leaving the nest to roost in a nearby tree at about 55-65 days old, becoming fully independent roughly three weeks later.


Not threatened globally, although Near-threatened in South Africa, due to low population numbers largely caused by habitat destruction.


  • 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. 



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