Stork (חֲסַידָה, chasidah; translated indifferently by the Sept. ἀσίδα ἔποψ, ἐρωδίος, πελεκάν; Vulg. herodio, herodius, milvus; A.V. "stork," except in Job 39:13, where it is translated "wing" ["stork" in the marg.]; but there is some question as to the correct reading in this passage). SEE OSTRICH. In the following account we present the ancient and the modern information.
I. Identification of the Scriptural Allusions. — The Sept. does not; seem to have recognized the stork under the Hebrew term חֲסַידָה, otherwise it could scarcely have missed the obvious rendering of πελαργός, or have adopted in two instances the phonetic representation of the original ἀσίδα (whence, no doubt, Hesych. ἄσις, ειδος ὀρνέου). It is singular that a bird so conspicuous and familiar as the stork must have been both in Egypt and Palestine should have escaped notice by the Sept., but there can be no doubt of the correctness of the rendering of the A.V. The Hebrew term is derived from the root חָסִד, whence חֶסֶד, "kindness," from the maternal and filial affection of which this bird has been in all ages the type.
There are two kinds of stork, the Ciconia alba, and the C. nigra. In Egypt the two species collectively are called anaseh, the white, more particularly, belari; in Arabic zakid, zadig (?), abuhist, heklek, hegleg, and haji luglug, the three last mentioned expressing the peculiar clatter which storks make with their bills, and haji, or pilgrim, denoting their migratory habits. This quality several of the Western names likewise indicate, while our word stork, albeit the Greek στοργή implies natural affection, is an appellation which extends to the Icelandic, Danish, Swedish, German, Hungarian, Lettish, and Wallachian languages, and is presumed originally to have been stor eger, i.e. migrating heron, with which the Greek agrees in sound but has no affinity of meaning, though it corroborates the interpretation of chasidah in the Hebrew, similarly implying affection, piety, mercy, and gratitude. This name results from a belief, general through all ancient Asia, in the attachment of these birds to each other; of the young towards the old, and of the parents towards their young. But the latter part of this opinion is alone verified by the moderns, in cases where the mother bird has perished while endeavoring to save her progeny. This occurred in the great fire at Delft, and more recently at the battle of Friedland, where, a fir tree with a stork's nest in it being set on fire by a howitzer shell, the female made repeated efforts to extricate her young, and, at length, as in the other case, was seen to sink in the flames. Without, therefore, admitting the exaggerated reports or the popular opinions of the East respecting the stork, enough is shown to justify the identification of chasidah with the bird, notwithstanding that some learned commentator have referred the word to heron, and to several other birds though none upon investigation are found to unite in the same degree the qualities which] are ascribed to the species in Le 11:19; De 14:18; Job 39:13; Ps 104:17; Jer 8:7; Zec 5:9.
Agyst, the Russian (?) name of the stork according to Merrick, does not appear to be, related to the Hebrew, unless it could be shown that the Estonian aigr, or aigro, applied to the same bird, and the old Teutonic
aigel, Danish hegre, Italian and Provencal arione, aigron, denominations of the common heron, are from the same source, and not primitive appellatives in the great Northern family of languages, which, it must be confessed, are not solitary examples in vocabularies so remote from each other. Of the smaller sized, more solitary, black stork, no mention need be made in this place, because it is evidently not the bird referred to in the sacred writers.
II. Description and Habits. —
1. Generally. — Storks are about a foot less in height than the crane, measuring only three feet six inches from the tip of the bill to the end of the toes, and nearly the same to the end of the tail. They have a stout, pointed, and rather long bill, which, together with their long legs, is of a bright scarlet color; the toes are partially webbed, the nails at the extremities flat, and but little pointed beyond the tips of the joints. The orbits are blackish, but the whole bird is white, with the exception of a few scapulars, the greater wing covers, slid all the quills, which are, deep black; these are doubly scalloped out, with those nearest the body almost as long as the very foremost in the wing. This is a provision of nature enabling the bird more effectually to sustain its after weight in the air a faculty exceedingly important to its mode of flight, with its long neck and longer legs equally stretched out, and very necessary to a migrating species believed to fly without alighting from the Lower Rhine, or even from the vicinity of Strasburg, to Africa, and to the Delta of the Nile. The passage is performed in October, and, like that of cranes, in single or in double columns, uniting in a point to cleave the air; but their departure is seldom seen, because they generally start in the night; they always rise with clapping wings, ascending with surprising rapidity out of human sight, and arriving at their southern destination as if by enchantment. Here they reside until the last days of March, when they again depart for the north, but more leisurely and less congregated. A feeling of attachment, not without superstition, procures them an unmolested life in all Moslem countries, and a notion of their utility still protects them in Switzerland, Western Germany, and particularly in Holland, where they may be seen (at Middelburg) walking with perfect composure in a crowded vegetable market. Storks build their nests in pine, fir, cedar, and other coniferous trees, but seem to prefer lofty old buildings, towers, and ruins there are always several located on the tops of the isolated pillars at Persepolis; and they often obstruct the muezzins by nestling in their way about the summits of the minarets which these servants of the mosques must ascend to call the congregation to prayer. Several modern writers still assert the filial affection of young storks, which they describe as assisting their aged parents when they cannot any longer fly with vigor, and as bringing them food when unable to provide for themselves. Without entirely rejecting the fact of affectionate relations among these birds, it may be remarked that storks live to a good old age; and as they have a brood (sometimes two) every year, the question is, which of these takes charge of the decrepit parents? It cannot be the youngest, not as yet of sufficient strength, nor those of preceding years, which are no longer in their company. Besides, the weaker birds remain and breed in the south. May it not be conjectured that much of this belief is derived from a fact which travelers have had an opportunity of witnessing, though they could not distinguish whether the flight was composed of cranes or storks? On an exceedingly stormy day, when their southward course has been suddenly opposed by a contrary gale, may be seen a column of birds still persisting in their toil but at a lower elevation, and changing their worn out leader; and the bird, on taking his station in the rear, is clearly attended for a moment by three or four others of the last, who quit their stations as of to help him to reach the wake of the line. With regard to the snake-eating habits of the species, the marabou, or adjutant bird of; India, often classed with storks is undoubtedly a great devourer of serpents, but not so much so as the common peacock, and that domestic fowls are active destroyers of the young of reptiles may be observed even in England, where they carry off and devour small vipers. The chief resort, however, of storks, for above half the year, is in climates where serpents do not abound; and they seem at all times to prefer eels, frogs, toads, newts, and lizards, which sufficiently accounts for their being regarded as unclean (perhaps no bird sacred in Egypt was held clean by the Hebrew law). Storks feed also on field mice; but they do not appear to relish rats, though they break their bones by repeated blows of their bills.
2. Distinctively. — The white stork (Ciconia alba, L.) is one of the largest and most conspicuous of land birds standing nearly four feet high, the; jet black of its wings and its bright-red beak and legs contrasting finely with the pure white of its plumage (Zec 5:9," They had wings like the wings of a stork"). It is placed by naturalists near the heron tribe, with which it has some affinity, forming a connecting link between it and the spoonbill and ibis, like all of which, the stork feeds on fish and reptiles, especially on the latter. In the neighborhood of man it readily devours all kinds of offal and garbage. For this reason, doubtless, it is placed in the list of unclean birds by the, Mosaic law (Le 11:19; De 14:18). The range of the white stork extends over the whole of Europe, except the British isles, where it is now only a rare visitant, and over Northern Africa and Asia, as far at least as Burmah.
The black stork. (Ciconia nigra, L.) though less abundant in places, is scarcely less widely distributed, but has a more easterly range than its congener. Both species are very numerous in Palestine. — the white stork being universally distributed, generally in pairs, over the whole country; the black stork living in large flocks, after the fashion of herons, in the more secluded and marshy districts. Tristram met with a flock of upwards off fifty black, storks feeding near the west shore of the Dead Sea. They are still more abundant by the Sea of Galilee, where also the white stork is so numerous as to be gregarious, and in the swamps, round the waters of Merom.
3. Social Character and Traditional References. While the black stork is never found about buildings, but prefers marshy places in forests, and breeds on the tops of the loftiest trees where it heaps up its ample nest far from the haunts of man, the white stork attaches itself to him and for the service which it renders in the destruction, of reptiles and the removal of offal has been repaid from the earliest times by protection and reverence. This is especially the case in the countries where it breeds. In the streets of towns in Holland, in the villages of Denmark, and in the bazaars of Syria and Tunis it may be seen stalking gravely among the crowd, and woe betide the stranger either in Holland or in Palestine who should dare to molest it. The claim of the stork to protection seems to have been equally recognized by the ancients. Sempr Rufus, who first ventured to bring young storks to table, gained the following epigram, on the failure of his candidature for the praetorship:
"Quanquam est duobus elegantior Plancis Suffragiorum puncta non tulit septem. Ciconiarum populus ultus est mortem."
Horace contemptuously alludes to the same sacrilege in the lines.
"Tutoque ciconia nido, Donec vos auctor docuit praetorius" (Sat. 2, 2, 49).
Pliny (Hist. Nat. 10, 21) tells us that in Thessaly it was a capital crime to kill a stork, and that they were thus valued equally with human life in consequence of their warfare against serpents. They were not less honored in Egypt. It is said that at Fez, in Morocco, there is an endowed hospital for the purpose of assisting and nursing sick cranes and storks, and of burying them when dead. The Marocains hold that storks are human beings in that form from some distant islands (see note to Brown's Pseud. Epid. 3, 27, 3). The Turks in Syria point to the stork as a true follower of Islam, from the preference he always shows for the Turkish and Arab over the Christian quarters. For this undoubted fact, however, there may be two other reasons-- the greater amount of offal to be found about the Moslem houses, and the persecutions suffered from the skeptical Greeks, who rob the nests, and show none of the gentle consideration towards the lower animals which often redeems the Turkish character. Strickland (Mem. and Papers, 2, 227) states that it is said to have quite deserted Greece since the expulsion of its Mohammedan protectors. The observations of travelers corroborate this remark. Similarly the rooks were said to be so attached to the old regime that most of them left France at the Revolution a true statement, and accounted for by the clearing of most of the fine old timber which used to surround the chateaux of he noblesse.
As already noted, the derivation of חִסדָה points to the parental and filial attachment of which the stork seems to have been a type among the Hebrews no less than the Greeks and Romans. It was believed that the young repaid the care of their parents by attaching themselves to them for life, and tending them in old age. Hence it was commonly called among the Latins "avis pia." (See Laburnus, in Petronius Arbiter; Aristotle, Hist. Anim. 9, 14; and Pliny, Hist. Nat. 10, 32.) Pliny also notices their habit of always returning to the same nest. Probably there is no foundation for the notion that the stork so far differs from other birds as to recognize its parents after it has become mature; but of the fact of these birds returning year after year to the same spot there is no question. Unless when molested by man, storks' nests all over the world are rebuilt or rather repaired, for generations on the same site, and in Holland the same individuals have been recognized for many years . That the parental attachment of the stork is very strong has been proved on many occasions. The above-mentioned tale of the stork at the burning of the towns of Delft has often been repeated, and seems corroborated by unquestionable evidence. The name of the bird itself, as we have seen, is expressive of the same fact. Its watchfulness over its young is unremitting, and often shown in a somewhat droll manner. Tristram was once in camp near an old ruined tower in the plain of Zana, south of the Atlas, where a pair of storks had their nest. The four young might often be seen from a little distance, surveying the prospect, from their lonely height; but whenever any of the human party happened to stroll near the tower, one of the old storks, invisible before, would instantly appear, and, lighting on the nest, put its foot gently on the necks of all the young, so as to hold them down out of sight till the stranger had passed, snapping its bill meanwhile, and assuming a grotesque air of indifference and unconsciousness of there being anything under its charge.
Few migratory birds are more punctual to the time of their reappearance than the white stork, or, at least, from its familiarity and conspicuousness, its migrations have been more accurately noted. "The stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times" (see Virgil; Georg. 2, 319, and Petron. Sat.). Pliny states that it is rarely seen in Asia Minor after the middle of August. This is probably a slight error, as the ordinary date of its arrival in Holland is the second week in April, and it remains until October. In Denmark Judge Boie, noted its arrival from 1820 to 1847. The earliest date Was March 26, and the latest April 12. (Kjaerbolling; Danmarks Fugle, p. 262). In Palestine it has been observed to arrive on March 22. Immense flocks of storks may be seen on the banks of the Upper Nile during winter, and some few farther west, in the Sahara; but it does not Sappar to migrate very far south, unless; indeed, the birds that are seen at the Cape of Good Hope in December be the same which visit Europe. The stork has no note, and the only sound it emits is that caused by the sudden snapping of its long mandibles, well expressed by the epithet "crotalistria" in Petron. (quasi κροταλίζω, to rattle the castanets). From the absence of voice probably arose the error alluded to by Pliny, "Sunt qui ciconiis non inesse linguas confirment."
Some unnecessary difficulty has been raised respecting the expression in Ps 104:17, "As for the stork the fir trees are her house." In the West of Europe the home of the stork is connected with the dwellings of man; and in the East, as the eagle is mentally associated with the most sublime scenes in nature so, to the traveler at least, is the stork with the ruins of man's noblest works. Amid the desolation of his fallen cities throughout Eastern Europe and the classic portions of Asia and Africa, we are sure to meet with them surmounting his temples, his theaters, or baths. It is the same in Palestine. A pair of storks have possession of the only tall piece of ruin in the plain of Jericho; they are the only tenants of the noble tower of Richard Coeur-de-Lion at Lydda; and they gaze on the plain of Sharon from the lofty tower of Ramleh (the ancient Arimathea). So they have a pillar at Tiberias, and a corner of a ruin at Nebi Mousseh. And no doubt in ancient times the sentry shared the watch tower of Samaria or of Jezreel with the cherished storks. But the instinct of the stork seems to be to select the loftiest and most conspicuous spot he can find where his huge nest may be supported; and whenever he can combine this taste with his instinct for the society of man, he naturally selects a tower or a roof. In lands of ruins, which from their neglect and want of drainage supply him with abundance of food, he finds a column or a solitary arch the most secure position for his nest; but where neither towers nor ruins abound he does not hesitate to select a tall tree, as both storks, swallows, and many other birds must have done before they were tempted by the artificial conveniences of man's buildings to desert their natural places of nidification. Thus the golden eagle builds, according to circumstances, in cliffs, on trees, or eye on the ground; and the common heron, which generally associates on the tops of the tallest trees, builds in Westmoreland and in Galway on bushes. It is therefore needless to interpret the text of the stork merely perching on trees. It probably was no less numerous in Palestine when David wrote than now; but the number of suitable towers must have been far fewer, and it would therefore resort to trees. Though it does not frequent trees in South Judaea, yet it still builds on trees by the Sea of Galilee, according to several travelers; and Tristram remarks that, while he has never seen the nest except on towers or pillars in that land of ruins, Tunis, the only nest he ever saw in Morocco was on a tree. Varro (Re Rustica, 3, 5) observes, " Advenae volucres pullos faciunt, in agro ciconio, in tecto hirudines." All modern authorities give instances of the white stork building on trees. Degland mentions several pairs which still breed in a marsh near Chalons- sur-Marne (Orn. Europ. 2, 153). Kjaerbolling makes a similar statement with respect to Denmark, and Nillson also as to Sweden. Bädeker observes "that in Germany the white stork builds in the gables, etc., and in trees, chiefly the tops of poplars and the strong upper branches of the oak, binding the branches together with twigs, turf, and earth, and covering the flat surface with straw, moss, and feathers" (Eier Eur. pl 36
The black stork, no less common in Palestine, has never relinquished its natural habit of building upon trees. This species, in the northeastern portion of the land, is the most abundant of the two (Harmer's Obs. 3, 323). Of either, however, the expression may be taken literally that "the fir trees are a dwelling for the stork."
II. Literature. — The classical descriptions may be found in Aristot. Anim. 1, , 13 [14 ed. Schneid.]; Solin. 53; AElian. Anim. 3, 23; Pliny, H.N. 10, 16, 28. Modern authorities are, Bochart, Hieroz. 3, 85 sq.; Oedmann, Samml. 5, 58 sq.; Kitto, Pict. Bible,. note on Le 11:19 Phys. Hist. of Palest. p. 405 sq.; Tristram; Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 242 sq.; Wood, Bible Animals, p. 478 sq.; Thomson, Land and Book, 1, 503 sq.; and most books of Oriental travel. SEE BIRD.