Within the southern African region the Woolly-necked stork is limited to the wetter northern areas, which is not surprising as its preferred habitat is wetlands and rivers. It is also found in large parts of Africa to the north of the southern African region and through large parts of Asia.
The Woolly-necked stork is a large bird with a length of approximately 84 cm. The sexes are alike in both size and plumage colouration. Overall, these storks are predominantly black, with distinctive white necks that look woolly. The upper parts become a glossy purple during the breeding season. The bill is black, with a reddish tip; legs and feet are blackish-red; eyes are crimson.
There are both resident and migrant populations of Woolly-necked storks in the southern African region, with the number of birds in northern Namibia and Botswana increase due to the presence of non-breeding mogrants during the summer months. They feed mainly on insects, crabs, mollusks, fish and crabs.
Like most storks, the Woolly-necked stork flies with its neck outstretched and its broad wings enable it to soar for long periods of time on rising thermals of hot air with hardly a wing-beat. Although the birds are usually silent, they may call while at their nests, and also indulge in some bill-clattering when encountering their partners at their nests.
Woolly-necked storks are monogamous and build large platform-like nests high up in a tree, usually over water or swamp. The female lays a clutch of two to five eggs that hatch after an incubation period of about 31 days.
The scientific binomial for the Woolly-necked stork is Ciconia episcopus; Ciconia from the Latin for the “White stork”; and episcopus from the Latin for “a bishop”. Thus a White stork that looks like a bishop, the latter presumably a reference to the bird’s colouring matching a black cassock with a white collar. Quite appropriate.