email a friend
printable version
White Stork Ciconia ciconia
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information

This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Trend justification
The overall population trend is increasing, although some populations are decreasing or stable (Wetlands International 2006). In Europe, trends since 1982 have been stable, based on provisional data for 21 countries from the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme (EBCC/RSPB/BirdLife/Statistics Netherlands; P. Vorisek in litt. 2008).

Behaviour This species is a Palearctic migrant (del Hoyo et al. 1992) that travels with the assistance of thermal updrafts, the occurrence of which restricts the migratory routes the species can take (Hancock et al. 1992). For example the species must avoid long stretches of open water such as the Mediterranean Sea and must therefore bypass it on narrow fronts to the west or east (Snow and Perrins 1998, Van den Bossche 2002), after which it crosses the Sahara on a broad front (Brown et al. 1982). Once within Africa the species becomes considerably nomadic in response to changing abundances of food (e.g. locust swarms) (Hancock et al. 1992). It breeds from February to April in the Palearctic, whilst the tiny breeding population in South Africa breeds from September to November (del Hoyo et al. 1992). It nests in loose colonies of up to 30 pairs (Hancock et al. 1992, del Hoyo et al. 1992) or solitarily (del Hoyo et al. 1992). The main departure from the European breeding grounds occurs in August (Hancock et al. 1992) with the species travelling in large flocks (Brown et al. 1982, Hancock et al. 1992) of many thousands of individuals (Snow and Perrins 1998), generally arriving in Africa by early-October (Brown et al. 1982). It forages singly, in small groups of 10-50 individuals (Hockey et al. 2005), or in large flocks if prey is abundant and on its wintering grounds it may gather in large numbers (hundreds or thousands of individuals) at abundant food sources (e.g. locust swarms or grass fires) (Hancock et al. 1992). The species feeds diurnally (Hancock et al. 1992) and roosts communally at night in trees (Brown et al. 1982). Habitat The species inhabits open areas, generally avoiding regions with persistent cold, wet weather or large tracts of tall, dense vegetation such as reedbeds or forests (Hancock et al. 1992, del Hoyo et al. 1992, del Hoyo et al. 1992), shallow marshes, lakesides (Hancock et al. 1992, del Hoyo et al. 1992), lagoons (del Hoyo et al. 1992), flood-plains, rice-fields and arable land (Snow and Perrins 1998) especially where there are scattered trees for roosting (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Non-breeding During the winter the species shows a preference for drier habitats (Hancock et al. 1992) such as grasslands, steppe, savanna and cultivated fields (del Hoyo et al. 1992), often gathering near lakes, ponds (Hancock et al. 1992), pools, slow-flowing streams, ditches (del Hoyo et al. 1992) or rivers (Hancock et al. 1992). Diet The species is carnivorous and has a varied and opportunistic diet (del Hoyo et al. 1992). It takes small mammals (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (e.g. voles, water voles, mice, shrews, young rats (Hancock et al. 1992)), large insects (e.g. beetles, grasshoppers, crickets and locusts), adult and juvenile amphibians, snakes, lizards, earthworms, fish (del Hoyo et al. 1992), eggs and nestlings of ground-nesting birds, molluscs and crustaceans (Hancock et al. 1992). Breeding site The nest is constructed of sticks (del Hoyo et al. 1992) and is commonly positioned up to 30 m above the ground (Brown et al. 1982) in trees or on the roofs of buildings, as well as on pylons, telegraph poles, stacks of straw and other anthropogenic sites (including specially erected nesting structures), cliffs and occasionally among rushes on the ground (del Hoyo et al. 1992). The species nests solitarily or in loose colonies, often using traditional nesting sites (there are records of individual nests being used every year for 100 years) (Hancock et al. 1992, del Hoyo et al. 1992). Nesting sites are usually situated near foraging areas, but may be up to 2-3 km away (Snow and Perrins 1998). Management information Intensively grazed (> 1 cow per hectare) unfertilised grassland was found to attract a higher abundance of this species in Hungary (Baldi et al. 2005), and traditional livestock-farming practices such as creating herb-rich meadows for stock grazing and hay production are thought to be beneficial (Goriup and Schulz 1990). A model used to study the impact of different land use patterns on the species found that sequential (asynchronous) mowing of grasslands may increase the food supply for nestlings, thereby increasing reproductive success (as sequential mowing generates a small number of high-quality foraging patches throughout the breeding season) (Johst et al. 2001). A report by the International Council for Bird Preservation (ICBP) suggests that habitat management for the species should include the periodic flooding of meadows, the creation of a mosaic of native grasslands and meadows, and the retention or creation of ditches, ponds and lakes (Goriup and Schulz 1990). The report also advises management strategies in relation to electricity pylons (e.g. burying or marking aerial cables and preventing disturbance to nests during maintenance) to reduce the threats of electrocution and collision (Goriup and Schulz 1990). Due to the species's habit of defecating on its legs to regulate its body temperature in hot climates it is inadvisable to fit individuals with leg-rings for tracking purposes (dry uric acid builds-up on the legs and hardens around leg-rings, tightening them and leading to injuries) (Goriup and Schulz 1990). Other methods of monitoring movements such as satellite telemetry or patagial wing-tags are therefore advised (Goriup and Schulz 1990).

The species is threatened by habitat alteration including the drainage of wet meadows (Goriup and Schulz 1990, del Hoyo et al. 1992), prevention of floods on flood-plains (by dams, embankments, pumping stations and river canalisation schemes) (Goriup and Schulz 1990), conversion of foraging areas (del Hoyo et al. 1992), development, industrialisation and intensification of agriculture (Hancock et al. 1992) (e.g. mechanised ploughing of rough pastures to sow fertilised crops or swards of more productive grass varieties) (Goriup and Schulz 1990). It is also threatened by a shortage of nesting sites in some areas (del Hoyo et al. 1992) as, for example, the roofs of new rural buildings do not support nests and nest structures on pylons are frequently destroyed during maintenance work (Goriup and Schulz 1990). During the winter in Africa there may be high rates of mortality due to changes in feeding conditions owing to drought, desertification and the control of locust populations by insecticides (Goriup and Schulz 1990, Hancock et al. 1992). The species may also suffer as a result of the excessive use of pesticides (e.g. in Africa) (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Hockey et al. 2005) and through eating poisoned baits put out to catch large carnivores (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Another serious threat is collision with and electrocution from overhead powerlines (del Hoyo et al. 1992), especially whilst on migration in Europe (Hancock et al. 1992). The species is hunted for food and sport (del Hoyo et al. 1992), mainly on migration (Hancock et al. 1992) and in its winter quarters (Goriup and Schulz 1990).

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Baldi, A., Batary, B. and Erdos, S. 2005. Effects of grazing intensity on bird assemblages and populations of Hungarian grasslands. Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 108: 251-263.

Brown, L.H., Urban, E.K. and Newman, K. 1982. The Birds of Africa, Volume I. Academic Press, London.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Gordo, O.; Sanz, J. J. 2006. Climate change and bird phenology: a long-term study in the Iberian Peninsula. Global Change Biology 12: 1993-2004.

Goriup, P.; Schulz, H. 1990. Conservation management of the White Stork: an international opportunity. International Council for Bird Preservation, Cambridge, U.K.

Hancock, J. A.; Kushlan, J. A.; Kahl, M. P. 1992. Storks, ibises and spoonbills of the world. Academic Press, London.

Hockey, P.A.R., Dean, W.R.J. and Ryan, P.G. 2005. Roberts birds of southern Africa. Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town, South Africa.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Johst, K.; Brandl, R.; Pfeifer, R. 2001. Foraging in a patchy and dynamic landscape: human land use and the White Stork. Ecological Applications 11(1): 60-69.

Snow, D.W. and Perrins, C.M. 1998. The Birds of the Western Palearctic, Volume 1: Non-Passerines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

van den Bossche, W. 2002. Eastern European white stork populations: migration studies and elaboration of conservation measures. BfN - Skripten (Bundesamt fur Naturschutz) 66: Unpaginated.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Jump to the case study for this species in Wildlife comeback in Europe: The recovery of selected mammal and bird species (Deniet et al. 2003)

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Malpas, L. & Taylor, J.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Ciconia ciconia. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - White stork (Ciconia ciconia) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Ciconiidae (Storks)
Species name author (Linnaeus, 1758)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Increasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 6,320,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change
- 2015 European Red List assessment