The Stork


The Bible name of this bird means gentleness or affection, and the stork
very well deserves such a name. It is very kind indeed to its young
ones, and takes pains to find some things for them that it does not
itself eat. It is said that when a house, on the top of which was a
stork's nest, once took fire, the mother bird would not fly away,
because the young ones were not large or strong enough to go with her,
and so they were all burned together. They are very kind to the old
birds, too; and I have read that the younger storks sometimes carry the
old ones on their wings when they have become tired with flying a great
way; and bring food to them in their nests just as the old ones used to
bring it to them. I am not quite certain that this is true, though many
people have said so; but if it is, I am sure it is a beautiful example
for every child, teaching him to repay his parents in every way he can
for all their love and care.

The stork is about a yard long from its head to the end of the tail; its
color is white, excepting some of the great quill feathers, which are
black. Its nest is large and flat, and made mostly of sticks; the eggs
are about as large as those of a goose, and a little yellowish.

It does not sing; the only noise it makes is by striking one part of its
bill upon the other. While it is sleeping it stands on one leg, with
its neck bent backward, and its head resting between its shoulders. The
Jews were forbidden by God to use the stork for food; perhaps this was
because it lives upon such animals as frogs, fishes and serpents.

The stork is a bird of passage; it spends the summer in Holland and
other countries in the north of Europe, but flies to a warmer climate
before cold weather comes. They seem to have a kind of agreement among
themselves about starting on these long journeys; and for a fort-night
before they are ready, they may be seen collecting in great numbers-then
all take to their wings at once. This explains a verse in the eighty
chapter of Jeremiah, "The stork in the heavens knoweth her appointed
times;" that is, her times of going to a warmer climate or returning.

After the winter has gone, the storks fly back to their summer home, and
very often take their old nests again. In Europe, these are generally
made on the tops of houses or old chimneys, and the birds are so gentle
and harmless that the people never disturb them, but are glad to see
them come back. In some countries the roofs of the houses are flat, and
the people walk and sleep on them; in these places the storks often
build their nest on the flat branches of some spreading tree. In the
104th Psalm we read, "As for the stork, the fir-trees are her house."