Stork tales
Mehran Zaidi

THE first time we learnt about storks was when we were told that our little brother or sister was brought by the stork.

Storks are majestic and brilliantly-coloured birds. There are eight types of storks: painted, open-billed, black-necked, white-necked, white, black and adjutant (greater and lesser.) Out of these eight, the three most common are painted, open-billed and white-necked.

The painted stork is a vulture-sized bird with a big yellow bill and a white body with light-pink feather tips and black patches on the feathers. The painted stork is undoubtedly the most common stork in national sanctuaries like the Keoladeo Ghana National Park in Bharatpur where they set up huge breeding colonies. The painted stork mainly eats fish, frogs and snakes. It is a locally migrant bird from South India in the winters.

The open-billed stork is slightly smaller than its painted cousin and has a peculiar gap in its bill. It appears to be quite ill-mannered with its ‘mouth’ always slightly open! It is a very gregarious bird and nest in huge numbers. It is plain white with black feathers and a reddish black bill, which enables it to eat snails. It also eats fish, frogs, snakes, crabs etc. The open-billed stork, too, locally migrates from the South to the North in the winters.

The white-necked stork is a striking black bird with a white neck and a black forehead. Like other storks it also likes to stay near water. Its nests are on silk cotton trees or similar tall trees near water and sometimes near villages. It is a strong flier and flies with other storks and vultures. It is often sighted alone or in small flocks. Like the former two, it is a locally migrant bird.

Storks, even though they don’t bring in babies, are fascinating birds.