The best known modern image of the stork is as the bringer of babies, photo by C. Korkosz
Storks are large, long-legged, long-necked wading birds with long stout bills, belonging to the family Ciconiidae. They occur in most of the warmer regions of the world and tend to live in drier habitats than the related herons, spoonbills and ibises. Storks have no syrinx (= sound-producing vocal organ) and are mute, giving no bird call; bill-clattering is an important mode of stork communication at the nest. Many species are migratory. Most storks eat insects, earthworms, small birds or mammals, frogs and fishes. There are 19 species of storks in six genera.
Storks' size, serial monogamy, and faithfulness to an established nesting site contribute to their prominence in mythology and culture. Most of the myths tend to refer to the White Stork, the species that we observe in Spring Alive.
In Ancient Egypt the stork was associated with the human ba; they had the same phonetic value. The ba was the unique individual character of each human being: a stork with a human head was an image of the ba-soul, which unerringly migrates home each night, like the stork, to be reunited with the body during the Afterlife.
The Hebrew word for stork was equivalent to "kind mother", and the care of storks for their young, in their highly visible nests, made the stork a widespread emblem of parental care. It was widely noted in ancient natural history that a stork pair will be consumed with the nest in a fire, rather than fly and abandon it.
The best known modern image of the stork is as the bringer of babies: we have all seen the image of a flying stork carrying a little "bundle of joy" to new parents. In ancient Greek mythology, the stork was actually a symbol of stealing a baby and carrying it away. Gerana, a beautiful Queen of the Pygmies, was changed into a stork by Hera, one of the goddesses whom she had made angry. As a stork, Gerana tried to abduct her own child, Mopsus, whom she loved, but was constantly chased away by her former kin.
The stork is alleged in folklore to be monogamous although in fact this monogamy is "serial monogamy", the bond lasting one season. For Early Christians the stork became an emblem of a highly respected "white marriage", that is, a chaste marriage.
Though "Stork" is rare as an English surname, the Czech surname "Čapek" means "little stork".
For the Chinese, the stork was able to snatch up a worthy man, like the flute-player Lan Ts'ai Ho, and carry him to a blissful life.
In Bulgarian folklore, the stork is a symbol of the coming spring (as this is the time when the birds return to nest in Bulgaria after their winter migration) and in certain regions of Bulgaria it plays a central role in the custom of Martenitsa: when the first stork is sighted it is time to take off the red-and-white Martenitsa tokens, for spring is truly come.
A series of sightings of a mysterious pterodactyl-like creature in South Texas' Rio Grande Valley in the 1970s has been attributed to an errant giant stork that become lost during a migratory flight and wound up in an unfamiliar region.