White stork Ciconia ciconia photographed by Koalazf.

Belongs within: Aequornithia.

The Ciconiidae are the storks, large long-legged and -billed birds found primarily in warmer parts of the world. Storks are often described as voiceless, only communicating by rattling their bills. However, while this is largely true of the white stork Ciconia ciconia, other species may produce a variety of sounds such as whistling (Cramp & Simmons 1977). Most storks have straight dagger-like bills, but the wood storks Mycteria have bills that are down-curved at the end whereas the openbill storks Anastomus have the upper and lower mandibles arched away from each other and meeting only at the tip.

Characters (from Cramp & Simmons 1977): Large to huge wading and terrestrial birds. Body sturdy, elongate; neck long, head rather large. Male slightly bigger than female. Wings long and broad. Flight flapping, with neck usually outstretched; also engage in dynamic soaring. Twelve primaries; p7–p9 longest; p12 minute or absent. About 22 secondaries; diastataxic. Tail short, square or slightly rounded; twelve feathers. Under tail-coverts long and sometimes fluffy. Bill long and heavy, massive in some, tapering to blunt point. Straight or slightly upturned, rarely moderately decurved or with remarkable gap between cutting edges. Nostrils mainly slits at base of bill. Head partly or wholly bare. Large air-sacs under skin of neck; long, pendant, naked, distensible pouch occasionally present. Legs long, lower half or more of tibia bare. Toes relatively short with small webs at base, hind toe elevated; no claws pectinated. Tarsus reticulate. Stance upright, gait striding. Oil gland feathered. Feathers with short aftershaft (occasionally absent); down on feather tracts and apteria. Powder-down patches absent. Plumate white, grey, brown, and black, often with metallic reflections. Usually boldly patterned, often black and white; most species with pale underparts. Elaborate plumes absent, but thick ruff of feathers may be present on lower foreneck. Bare parts brightly coloured throughout year. Sexes generally similar. Breeding plumage like non-breeding or slightly more colourful. Moults poorly known, mostly one per cycle. Primaries replaced in descendant or serially descendant order, or irregularly. Young semi-altricial and nidicolous. Two coats of down, first growing from same follicles as later contour feathers, second from same follicles as adult down. Juveniles reach full plumage in second calendar year.

<==Ciconiidae [Melanopelargidae]
    |--Ciconia Brisson 1760 BKB15, M02 [incl. Melanopelargus Reichenbach 1852 B94]
    |    |  i. s.: C. alba K08
    |    |         C. gaudryi Lambrecht 1933 M02
    |    |         C. kahli Haarhoff 1988 B93
    |    |         C. leucocephala Scl66
    |    |         C. louisebolesae Boles 2005 M09
    |    |         C. maltha FP64
    |    |         C. sarmatica Grigorescu & Kessler 1977 M02
    |    |         C. stehlini Jánossy 1992 M02
    |    |--+--C. maguari BKB15
    |    |  `--+--C. boyciana Swinhoe 1873 BKB15, CS77 [=C. ciconia boyciana CS77]
    |    |     `--C. ciconia (Linnaeus 1758) BKB15, CS77 [=Ardea ciconia CS77]
    |    |          |--C. c. ciconia CS77
    |    |          `--C. c. asiatica Severtzov 1872 CS77
    |    `--+--C. nigra (Linnaeus 1758) BKB15, CS77 [=Ardea nigra CS77]
    |       `--+--C. abdimii BKB15
    |          `--+--C. episcopus BKB15
    |             `--C. stormi BKB15
    `--+--+--Jabiru mycteria BKB15
       |  `--Ephippiorhynchus BKB15
       |       |--E. asiaticus BKB15
       |       |    |--E. a. asiaticus M03
       |       |    `--E. a. australis M03
       |       `--E. senegalensis BKB15
       `--Leptoptilos Lesson 1831 BKB15, M02 [Leptoptilidae]
            |  i. s.: L. dubius JT12
            |         L. falconeri VR72
            |         L. pliocenicus Zubareva 1948 [=Leptoptilus (l. c.) pliocenicus] M02
            |         L. titan VR72
            |--L. crumeniferus (Lesson 1831) BKB15, CS77 [=Ciconia crumenifera CS77]
            `--+--L. javanicus BKB15
               `--Mycteria Linnaeus 1758 BKB15, B94 (see below for synonymy)
                    |  i. s.: ‘Ibis’ cayennensis K08
                    |         ‘Ibis’ cristata Sch66
                    |         ‘Tantalus’ lacteus K08
                    |         ‘Ibis’ religiosa Sch66
                    |--*M. americana Linnaeus 1758 L58, BKB15, L58 [incl. *Tantalus loculalor Linnaeus 1758 B94, L58]
                    `--+--M. ibis (Linnaeus 1766) BKB15, CS77 (see below for synonymy)
                       `--+--M. cinerea BKB15 [=Ibis cinerea B94, Pseudotantalus cinereus B94]
                          `--M. leucocephala BKB15 [=Ibis leucocephalus B94, Pseudotantalus leucocephalus B94]

Ciconiidae incertae sedis:
  ‘Cygnus’ bilinicus Laube 1909 [=Aquilavus bilinicus] M02
  Palaeoephippiorhynchus dietrichi Lambrecht 1930 M09
  Prociconia VR72
  Palaeopelargus VR72
  Pelargosteon Kretzoi 1962 M02
    `--*P. tothi Kretzoi 1962 M02
  Grallavis Cheneval 1984 M02
    `--*G. edwardsi (Lydekker 1891) [=Propelargus edwardsi] M02
  Anastomus Bonnaterre 1791 [Anastomidae] B94
    |--A. lamelligerus JT12
    `--A. oscitans JT12
  Dissoura K08
    |--D. episcopus K08
    `--D. microscelis K08
  Xenorhynchus asiaticus (Latham 1790) [=Mycteria asiatica] WS48
    |--X. a. asiaticus WS48
    `--X. a. australis (Shaw 1800) [=Mycteria australis; incl. X. asiaticus rogersi Mathews 1912] WS48
  Sphenorhynchus abdimi RN72
  Eociconia sangequanensis Hou 1989 M09

Nomen nudum: Tantalus brecciensis Giebel 1847 [=*Tantaleus brecciensis] M02

Mycteria Linnaeus 1758 BKB15, B94 [incl. Ibis Lacépède 1799 B94, Tantaleus Reichenbach 1852 (n. n.) M02, Tantalus Linné 1766 B94; Mycteriidae, Tantalidae]

Mycteria ibis (Linnaeus 1766) BKB15, CS77 [=Tantalus ibis B94, Ibis ibis B94, Numenius ibis C00, Pseudotantalus ibis B94; incl. *I. candidus B94, Tantalus pavoninus C00]

*Type species of generic name indicated


[B94] Bock, W. J. 1994. History and nomenclature of avian family-group names. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 222: 1–281.

[B93] Brooke, R. K. 1993. Annotated catalogue of the Aves type specimens in the South African Museum. Annals of the South African Museum 102 (10): 327–349.

[BKB15] Burleigh, J. G., R. T. Kimball & E. L. Braun. 2015. Building the avian tree of life using a large-scale, sparse supermatrix. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 84: 53–63.

[CS77] Cramp, S., & K. E. L. Simmons (eds) 1977. Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa: The Birds of the Western Palaearctic vol. 1. Ostrich to Ducks. Oxford University Press: Oxford.

[C00] Cuvier, G. 1800. Sur l'ibis des anciens Egyptiens. Bulletin des Sciences, par la Societé Philomathique de Paris 2 (39): 119.

[FP64] Fisher, J., & R. T. Peterson. 1964. The World of Birds: A comprehensive guide to general ornithology. Macdonald: London.

[JT12] Jetz, W., G. H. Thomas, J. B. Joy, K. Hartmann & A. Ø. Mooers. 2012. The global diversity of birds in space and time. Nature 491: 444–448.

[K08] Kellogg, V. L. 1908. Wissenschaftliche Ergebnisse der Schwedischen Zoologischen Expedition nach dem Kilimandjaro, dem Meru und den Umgebenden Massaisteppen Deutsch-Ostafrikas 1905–1906 vol. 15. Corrodentia pt 4. Mallophaga. Almqvist & Wiksells Boktryckeri-A. B.: Uppsala.

[L58] Linnaeus, C. 1758. Systema Naturae per Regna Tria Naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata. Laurentii Salvii: Holmiae.

[M09] Mayr, G. 2009. Paleogene Fossil Birds. Springer.

[M02] Mlíkovský, J. 2002. Cenozoic Birds of the World. Part 1: Europe. Ninox Press: Praha.

[M03] Morcombe, M. 2003. Field Guide to Australian Birds 2nd ed. Steve Parish Publishing.

[RN72] Rutgers, A., & K. A. Norris (eds) 1972. Encyclopaedia of Aviculture vol. 1. London, Blandford Press.

[Sch66] Schlegel, H. 1866. Communication from, on mammals and birds collected in Madagascar. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1866: 419–426.

[Scl66] Sclater, P. L. 1866. Notice of recent additions to the Society's menagerie. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1866: 418–419.

[VR72] Vickers Rich, P. 1972. A fossil avifauna from the Upper Miocene Beglia Formation of Tunisia. Notes du Service Géologique 35: 29–66.

[WS48] Whittell, H. M., & D. L. Serventy. 1948. A systematic list of the birds of Western Australia. Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery of Western Australia, Special Publication 1: 1–126.

Last updated: 4 December 2021.

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