Stork (Ciconia; Ukrainian: лелка, бузько, чорногуз; leleka, buzko, chornohuz). Large birds with long necks and legs of the family Ciconiidae (order Ciconiiformes). Storks range from about 60 cm to over 150 cm in height and weigh up to 4.5 kg. They are migratory birds that breed in Europe and winter in southern Africa. While breeding they nest on trees or, as in Ukraine, on buildings where a wagon wheel has been set up to serve as the base of the nest. Two species predominate in Ukraine: Ciconia nigra or black stork (black with a white spot on the belly and red legs and bill) in the Carpathian Mountains and in Polisia, and Ciconia ciconia or white stork (white with black wing feathers, a dark red bill, and reddish legs), found over the whole of Ukraine. Storks have become an endangered species and are now protected by law.

According to Ukrainian and other European folk belief the stork possesses magical powers to protect and help humans. A family with a stork's nest on its farm will live in peace, prosperity, and good health. A village with many storks can count on a bountiful harvest. The bird is believed to be capable of predicting the weather: restless behavior indicates the approach of bad weather, standing on one leg, cold weather, and clacking of the beak, a sunny day. In folk tales and legends the stork always plays the role of a helper of humans.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 5 (1993).]

Encyclopedia of Ukraine