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Have you ever seen a stork in the wild? If you live in North America, Australia or New Zealand, for sure you haven't but as a traveler. But if your home is at Europe, Africa or Asia, storks should quite likely be a part of your landscape, at least during some season in the year. For many Europeans, they are more than that, they are part of the culture.
All the 19 known species of storks but three live in the Old World, but the New World has three species living in Central and South America only. One of them (the jabiru, often called tuyuyu locally) belong to a genus exclusive of America (Jabiru), but the other two belong to genera that exist also in the Old World (Mycteria and Ciconia). What means that?
It most likely means that the family of storks (Ciconiidae) is an old group of birds, a group which originated before the former supercontinent Gondwana broken to produce South America, Africa, Madagascar, Australia-New Zealand and the Indian subcontinent, some 120 million years ago. Most present species diversified in tropical areas of Africa and Asia, a few became able to conquest the colder lands of Europe and Central Asia, and one could also win a place in the culture of Europeans.
Europe enjoys three species of storks, all from the genus Ciconia. This is the latin word for "stork", and it's the root for the French (cigogne), Italian (cicogna), Portuguese (cegonha) and Spanish (cigüeña) names for these birds. A second, Proto-Germanic word (sturkaz) is the root for the present names in English, German and most Eastern European languages. The Oriental stork (Ciconia boyciana) is an Asian species that penetrates Russia. The black stork (Ciconia nigra) and the white stork (Ciconia ciconia) are the true "European" storks.
"Mommy, where do babies come from?". In words of Sigmund Freud, "this is the oldest and most burning question that confronts immature humanity". What is usually referred as the "Occidental Culture" (actually, the culture of the European Christian Age, which was born from the emperor Constantin some 1,500 years ago) has never managed well sexual education, and the white stork came to rescue, giving rise to the "stork fable". In the Roman mythology, the stork was the totem of Juno, goddess of fertility and protector of women. In addition, white storks mate for life and, like many other birds, they behave as devoted parents. This is because European people saw white storks as the perfect model for the Christian family in nature, and such perception was most likely in the origin of the fable. It's amazing to notice that babies are brought by storks even among North American families, though its children did never see a stork but in the zoo or in movies (for more information about the "stork fable", follow the link: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1917&dat=19710205&id=_PAqAAAAIBAJ&sjid=GooFAAAAIBAJ&pg=489,1070895).
In most regions of Spain, the white stork is a symbol of the rural world. The rythm of its migration, leaving in mid summer and coming back in early spring, marked for centuries the rythm of time in Spanish villages. The bell tower of the church, with its stork nest on top, was also a cosmic-clock tower for our country men. With the growing of big cities beyond the limits of the municipality, many citizens, in the strict meaning of the word, went to live in the near rural areas. The villages involved in that invasion missed quickly his rural character, but storks didn't notice it, coming back to the bell tower nest as always.
We are lucky to live in a village of this kind since many years ago, and we have incorporated storks to our yearly landscape. Every April, we walk on a segment of one of the old tracks used by shepherds since the Middle Age to move flocks between the upper and the lower Castilian plateau. It takes part at present of a protected natural area, and it goes by some 10 kilometers between wonderful stockbreeding farms. As a lovely remain of the past, the ruins of a hospitality house from the XVIth century stand on one side of the track, and the white storks have made home of them. The ruined building supports the nests of some 30 or 40 mates that come back every year from Africa for the nesting season, and these mates offer a fascinating spectacle just at a 20 minutes walk from the door of our garden. The pictures of white storks shown in this article were made there. If anybody plans to come to Madrid between April and June and likes to enjoy the spectacle, please contact with us by e-mail. We will be delighted to send details about the way to follow to reach the place.
article published 4/8/2010