The white stork has a mostly white plumage, with black primary feathers on the edge of their wings and around their eyes. Their legs and beak are bright orange. Young birds are duller in colour and have black beaks and greyish yellow legs. They are also known as European white storks.
Almost all white storks migrate, moving from northern latitudes to more tropical regions during the winter. These birds will migrate to their wintering grounds together, avoiding open water, only to disperse once they arrive. Only populations in South Africa do not migrate.
The males arrive at the breeding grounds before the females and start work preparing their nest from the previous year. They will repair the large nest of stick with a range of materials including dung, paper and turf. Nests are built high up in trees, on cliffs and on buildings. The chicks are covered in white down and fledge after 58-64 days.
They are carnivores, eating a wide variety of prey, including small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, fish, large insects, crustaceans, eggs and earthworms. They search for their prey while walking with their bill pointed towards the ground and when food is spotted they quickly jab it with their sharp beak.
White storks are classed as Least Concern, but they are still threatened. Habitat destruction has reduced breeding and feeding sites. Pesticides harm them and in some regions they are hunted for food and sport. There are also records of these birds dying after flying into power lines and other cables.