Tag Archives: Ciconia episcopus

Entertaining a Woolly-necked stork

This time last year Rob and I were anticipating spending Christmas alone in Windhoek because he had to work over the festive period.  We decided to liven things up by starting what we called “The Mongoose Project” which was our name for attracting mongooses into our little garden and photographing them.  I can’t believe that a whole year has passed since then – an eventful year too with our move back to Durban, South Africa – and that we are now approaching another Christmas.  This year we have a new and very different visitor to our garden in the form of a Woolly-necked stork (Ciconia episcopus).  How privileged we are to be host to this magnificent (and near-endangered) bird.

Beautiful close-up of a Woolly-necked stork

About two months ago I came across three Woolly-necked storks in our driveway when I was on my way to collect the post.  I watched fascinated as my neighbour’s gate opened and a cat dashed out and proceeded to herd the three storks in their garden.  I asked my neighbour about this and she said that the birds were regular visitors because she fed them chicken.

Woolly-necked stork

Thinking of an opportunity for Rob to get some photos of Woolly-necked storks, I decided to keep an eye out for them in the future.  It just so happened that the day one came onto our lawn Rob and I had some leftover roast chicken.  I grabbed the chicken carcass, Rob grabbed his camera and we spent a few happy minutes watching our dinner guest appreciate his meal.  He learned fast, because he was back the next day for more!

Mmm, food fit for a stork!

He has since come back regularly and now that we have a cat again, we have packets of Bob Martins chicken chunks available to feed our feathered friend.  Just have to train the cat not to chase him.

Not your usual garden bird

It is strange to see Woolly-necked storks deep in suburbia, as their preferred habitat is wetlands and river margins.  I guess with all the rain we’ve had lately we do qualify somewhat in that regard.  It makes quite a change from the usual weavers and mannikins that we feed. Apart from tasty chicken morsels, these storks eat most of the goggas that are found in our garden, like insects, frogs and certain molluscs.  Yesterday, after polishing off a bowl of chicken pieces, our visitor also picked up half a lizard, compliments of our cat!

So we can tick off mongooses and Woolly-necked storks as Christmas visitors.  I wonder who we will be entertaining next year – can’t wait to see.


The Bird of the Week – Week 94 – Woolly-necked stork

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.

Woolly-necked stork

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.

Woolly-necked stork

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.

Woolly-necked stork

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.

Woolly-necked stork