Ciconia nigra

Ciconia nigra

The black stork (Ciconia nigra Linnaeus, 1758) is a large bird belonging to 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, Superclass Tetrapoda, Aves Class, Subclass Neornithes, Order Ciconiiformes, Ciconiidae Family and therefore to the Genus Ciconia and Species C. .

Geographical Distribution and Habitat –
The black stork is a bird with a nesting range that goes from most of Europe and Asia, from the extremes of the Iberian peninsula to northern China, except in the colder northern areas, such as Scandinavia and Siberia). In some areas of Spain and southern Africa it is sedentary.
European populations winter on the Mediterranean coast of Africa, in the Sahel or along the Rift Valley.
The Asian ones winter between the Indian peninsula and southern China.
Its habitat is varied, such as swamps, wet meadows, rice fields, rotten but, for the choice of the place to nest, it needs the presence of trees of considerable height, or rocky walls, mainly in areas with a mild Mediterranean climate, such as Spain, Greece or southern Italy and, compared to the white stork, does not like anthropized areas.
In Italy the black stork is a rare species although after years of extinction it returned to nest around the mid-nineties.
Compared to the white stork, it does not like anthropized areas.

Description –
The Ciconia nigra is slightly smaller than the white stork, and is 95 cm long, with a weight that is around 3 kg in weight. The wingspan can reach and slightly exceed 2 m.
It is recognized for its entirely black plumage except for the white of the lower parts of the trunk and the inside of the wings. Observed at a short distance, the back shows metallic reflections between green and violet. The young are of a dull blackish green color with the chest dotted with white.
The beak, the long legs and the eye circle are reddish in color while in the young specimens they are gray-green.
The direction of the black stork is given by rare beak shots, like a kind of breath or sigh.

Biology –
The black stork nests in woods above large trees or in rocky walls, near the banks of rivers.
The plants on which to nest must be dominant with respect to the others or have large lateral branches free from the smaller branches, in order to facilitate their entry. The nest can also be built in ravines and ledges of vertical walls, in places inaccessible from the ground: cliffs are preferred which have a good development, preferably above 50 meters in height.
The choice of rock sites is more common in the southern part of the European area, while the choice of trees is typical in central-northern Europe.
Couples are monogamous and if they are not disturbed they can use the same nest for several years. In case of disturbance it is easy for them to search for quieter sites. The wedding parades are inconspicuous, short-lived and not noisy: the opposite of the white stork.
The black stork lays on average 3-5 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes, but especially by the female, for 32-38 days.
Parents are very attentive in the care of newborns: in fact, an adult never leaves the little ones alone in the first 2-3 weeks of life to avoid predatory acts. The adult always shelters the chicks with his body from cold and rain, until they develop a consistent plumage.
The juveniles leave the nest after a period ranging from 63 to 71 days and follow the adults in search of food. The feeding areas can also be 15 km away as the crow flies.

Ecological role –
The black stork has a diet mainly represented by small fish, secondarily by amphibians, insects, crustaceans, reptiles, small mammals and birds.
The preys are always sought in the water, usually preferring small streams or flooded areas with a rather low level, not more than one meter in height.
The displacements, where suitable conditions exist, are made with a gliding flight, using the warm upward currents, which allow a strong saving of energy, since adults during the breeding of young people must cover distances of the order of several times a day tens of kilometers.
From an ecological point of view, this bird can be sighted, during migration, in almost the entire peninsula. The number of wintering individuals is increasing year by year.
In Italy the black stork is however a rare species: after years of extinction it returned to nest in 1994 in Piedmont (in the natural park of Monte Fenera) and then recolonized also Calabria (1997), Basilicata (2000) and Lazio (2002) and Campania (Monteverde, 2010).
In 2002, 5 black stork pairs nested in Italy, rising to 9 in 2007. Probably, however, the number of breeding pairs is underestimated as it is an elusive species that nests in secluded places.
The main threats to the black stork are represented by the transformations and fragmentation of nesting and feeding habitats, anthropogenic disturbance and illegal killings.
Among the conservation measures, it should be remembered that Ciconia nigra is listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive (79/409 / EEC). 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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