Oriental white stork (Ciconia boyciana)

Also known as: Oriental stork
Spanish: Cigüeña Blanca Coreana, Cigüeña Oriental
GenusCiconia (1)
SizeLength: 100 – 115 cm (2)

The Oriental white stork is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1) and is listed on Appendix I of CITES (3). It is also listed on Appendix I of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS or Bonn Convention) (4) and on Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 (5).

This tall and elegant bird can be identified by the ruff of longer feathers across the throat and upper breast. It is white apart from the contrasting black edges to the wings, the long, straight, black bill, and the bright red legs. Juveniles have brown edges to their wings and duller, reddish-brown legs (2).

The Oriental white stork breeds along the border of Russia and mainland China, particularly in the Amur River and Ussuri River basins. It winters in the lower Yangtze River basin and southern China, although small numbers are also found in North Korea, South Korea, Japan, and occasionally in the Philippines, northeastern India, Burma and Bangladesh. It may also be found as a summer vagrant in eastern Mongolia. The current population is thought to stand at 3,000 birds, following considerable declines in Russia (2).

During the breeding season the Oriental white stork is found nesting in tall trees and on man-made structures such as electricity pylons located in open freshwater wetlands and tidal flats (2). In winter it occupies a variety of wetland habitats, both estuarine and freshwater. It can be seen in paddy fields, shallow rivers, on beaches, in inter-tidal marshes, and on agricultural land near lakes, rivers and reservoirs. It roosts in coniferous trees at night (6).

Arrival at the breeding sites occurs in April, when the Oriental white stork begins building a new nest, or repairing an old one (3). The female lays between two and six eggs which are incubated for 32 to 35 days (7). Following hatching in late May and early June, the chicks are fed by both parents until July. The chicks’ survival is largely dependent on the amount of local rainfall, as feeding conditions are improved by heavy rain (3). Feeding takes place in water and the Oriental white stork will take fish, frogs, invertebrates, insects, voles, snakes, and even the chicks of other species (3) (7). In July and August the storks return to the wintering grounds, where they forage in the morning and late afternoon for clams, fish, snails, shrimps, crabs, frogs, snakes, bamboo and other plant material (3) (7).

Wetlands around the world have been drained for agricultural development, and the habitat of the Oriental white stork is no exception, particularly at the breeding sites. In Russia, breeding sites are also at risk from spring fires, which bring down tall trees suitable for nesting, forcing delayed nesting and reduced reproductive success. At the wintering sites in China, over-fishing has reduced the availability of prey species for the Oriental white stork. Throughout the range, this stork is hunted and collected for zoos, despite legal protection (3).

The Oriental white stork is legally protected in Russia, Mongolia, China, North Korea, South Korea and Japan. It also benefits from many protected areas in both Russia and China. Re-introduction programmes in South Korea and Japan should help to reduce declines, but further protected areas are necessary to prevent habitat loss being the cause of this species’ extinction. The maintenance of tall trees and the addition of artificial nest poles in potential breeding areas, as well as control of human disturbance at nest sites during the breeding season should also encourage increased breeding success. Further action includes campaigns against the use of fire by farmers in the breeding grounds and against poaching (2).

For further information on the Oriental white stork see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. IUCN Red List (July, 2014)