Its plumage is mainly white, with black flight feathers and wing coverts; the black is caused by the pigment melanin. The breast feathers are long and shaggy forming a ruff which is used in some courtship displays. The irises are dull brown or grey, and the peri-orbital skin is black. The adult has a bright red beak and red legs, the colouration of which is derived from carotenoids in the diet. Like all storks, it has long legs, a long neck and a long straight pointed beak. The sexes are identical in appearance, except that males are larger than females on average. They measure on average 100?115 cm (39?45 in) from beak tip to end of tail, with a 155?215 cm (61?85 in) wingspan. As with other storks, the wings are long and broad enabling the bird to soar. In flapping flight its wingbeats are slow and regular. It flies with its neck stretched forward and with its long legs extended well beyond the end of its short tail. It walks at a slow and steady pace with its neck upstretched. In contrast, it often hunches its head between its shoulders when resting. Moulting appears to take place throughout the year, with the primary flight feathers replaced over the breeding season.
Habitat and Distribution
The two subspecies, which differ slightly in size, breed in Europe (north to Finland), northwestern Africa, southwestern Asia (east to southern Kazakhstan) and southern Africa. The white stork is a long-distance migrant, wintering in Africa from tropical Sub-Saharan Africa to as far south as South Africa, or on the Indian subcontinent. When migrating between Europe and Africa, it avoids crossing the Mediterranean Sea and detours via the Levant in the east or the Strait of Gibraltar in the west, because the air thermals on which it depends do not form over water.
A carnivore, the white stork eats a wide range of animal prey, including insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals and small birds. It takes most of its food from the ground, among low vegetation, and from shallow water.
It is a monogamous breeder, but does not pair for life. Both members of the pair build a large stick nest, which may be used for several years. Each year the female can lay one clutch of usually four eggs, which hatch asynchronously 33?34 days after being laid. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs and both feed the young. The young leave the nest 58?64 days after hatching, and continue to be fed by the parents for a further 7?20 days.