Ciconia ciconia

Ciconia ciconia

The white stork (Ciconia ciconia Linnaeus, 1758) is a large bird in the Ciconiidae family.

Systematic –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, Animalia Kingdom, Sub-Kingdom Eumetazoa, Superphylum Deuterostomia, Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, Infraphylum Gnathostomata, Superclass Tetrapoda, Aves Class, Subclass Neornithes, Superorder Neognathae, Ciconi family, Ciconi order. and to the species C. ciconia.
Two subspecies are recognized:
– C. c. ciconia (Linnaeus, 1758) – present in Europe, western Asia, the Middle East and North Africa;
– C. c. Asiatic Severtsov, 1873 – present in Central Asia.

Geographical Distribution and Habitat –
The white stork is a species native to Europe and North Africa.
Its diffusion area concerns an area involving many European countries: Italy, Germany, Holland, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Belgium and Turkey; isolated couples or single individuals live in Poland. The decline of the White Stork, which has affected not only Italy but all of Europe, is attributable to the destruction and degradation of the feeding environments and to the persecution by man, even if in recent decades there has been a slow but constant increase in the breeding population.
This species breeds in Europe, North Africa, Turkey, the Caucasus, Iran and Central Asia.
Its habitat is that of open grassy and wooded environments, where it nests in farmhouses or rural urban centers, near wetlands where it feeds.

Description –
Ciconia ciconia is a bird characterized by a pure white plumage, with the exception of the terminal part of the wings and the tail. Beyond the dimensions, which are larger in males, it does not present sexual dimorphism.
The length is approximately 110 cm, with a wingspan of 1.50-1.60 m, which can even reach 2.20 m, for a weight of up to 4 kg.
It has a 15-20 cm long beak, strong and pointed, of a beautiful orange color like the legs.
The neck is long with the presence on the front of longer feathers, which give the chest a disordered appearance.
The eyes are gray, surrounded by dark bare skin.
The young specimens are distinguished by the darker color of the beak and legs.
The white stork has long and wide wings, suitable for gliding. When flying, the distinction between the black remiges and the rest of the white wing is even better noted. Like all other storks in flight, it keeps its neck extended and its legs stretched. Plana very often; when in flight, the beats are slow and regular.

Biology –
The white stork is a migratory species and adult subjects make seasonal shifts from wintering places to reproductive ones twice a year. In order to reach the wintering areas of sub-Saharan Africa, the white storks, which nest in eastern Europe (flying during the hours of the day) cross the Bosporus Strait, while those nesting in western Europe cross the Strait of Gibraltar or the Strait of Messina. The return to the breeding sites in Italy takes place first by the males, who upon their arrival in Europe do their utmost in arranging the nest of the previous year and await the arrival of the females.
It is a gregarious species, it tends to form colonies of numerous individuals, often nesting next to each other.
This bird reaches sexual maturity between the 2nd and 4th year of life.
The reproductive phase begins with courtship which consists of a complex series of performances ranging from the beating of the beak to the synchronized movement of head and neck, tail and wings.
After this phase, the mating begins, which take place repeatedly, for several weeks, even after the first eggs have been laid.
Arrived in the months of March and April, the parents build a large nest, more than 1 meter wide, on a tree, on a roof or on another artifact (also on power grid supports), in which the female lays on average 3- 4 (1-6) eggs, which are hatched for 35 days by both parents.
After hatching, both the male and the female breed the chicks who learn to fly after a period of about 70 days.
Babies weigh a few tens of grams at birth and are covered by a sparse light gray duvet that thickens quickly.

Ecological role –
The white stork feeds on small preys that it hunts with its beak in tall grass and water.
In fact, the stork does not have particular food needs, since it adapts to any food, even varying according to the place but, mainly, it feeds on grasshoppers or earthworms, as well as fish, marsh invertebrates and frogs, sometimes adding seeds, berries, lizards and even rodents. When it reaches Africa by migrating, it has a greater variety of prey to choose from and, depending on the case, it prefers small prey found in wetlands (such as amphibians or fish), that is, in the savannah, the numerous grasshoppers and other insects .
With its wide wingspan, it takes full advantage of the ascending air currents, spiraling up inside them and then sliding following a straight path and slowly losing altitude until it reaches another thermal or deciding to land.
The white stork is a bird whose memory and legends are lost in the mists of time. It is a bird that nested in Italy in Roman times even in Rome itself, building nests on the cornices of temples (as witnessed by Virgil, Ovid, Pliny the Elder and many others). Sung by Dante and nesting species in the Belpaese until the 16th century, it disappeared from the 17th century.
Subsequently the spontaneous return of the species was recorded in Piedmont in the late fifties of the twentieth century.
In Italy it is present, albeit in decline, from north to south and the largest spontaneous colony of storks in Italy is in fact in Gela, Sicily.
However at the moment, starting from the early 2000s, the number of individuals present in Italy is currently growing sharply, both as a result of reintroduction and spontaneous colonization by individuals from outside the region (probably from North Africa for Sicilian nuclei, Ientile & Massa 2008). However, in Northern Italy reproductive success is still very low; the species remains subject to threats such as illegal killings, collisions with power lines and inputs made with captive bred individuals (sedentarization). In consideration of the fact that at least in the southern part of the Italian range, this positive trend seems to be consolidated for now and that it is likely to continue also in the near future, as the species is stable or increasing in most of its European range (BirdLife International 2004), the species is classified as a Minor Concern (LC).
This species is threatened above all by the destruction of its feeding habitat but also by illegal killings and collisions with power lines.
Among the conservation measures, it should be noted that Ciconia ciconia is listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive (79/409 / EEC) and in Italy it is a species subject to protection according to Article 2 of Law 157/92.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– C. Battisti, D. Taffon, F. Giucca, 2008. Atlas of nesting birds, Gangemi Editore, Rome.
– L. Svensson, K. Mullarney, D. Zetterstrom, 1999. Guide to birds of Europe, North Africa and the Near East, Harper Collins Editore, United Kingdom.



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