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Ciconia nigra (Black stork) 

Grootswartooievaar [Afrikaans]; Unocofu [Xhosa]; Endongondongo (generic term for dark-coloured storks) [Kwangali]; Mokoroane (also applied to White stork) [South Sotho]; Zwarte ooievaar [Dutch]; Cigogne noire [French]; Schwarzstorch [German]; Cegonha-preta [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Ciconiiformes > Family: Ciconiidae

Ciconia nigra (Black stork)  Ciconia nigra (Black stork) 

Black stork. [photo Neil Gray ]

Black stork, Nylsvlei, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ]

Distribution and habitat

Breeds from Japan and north-eastern China to western Europe and Denmark, heading south in the non-breeding season to northern India, eastern China and equatorial Africa. There is a separate resident population in Zambia, Angola and southern Africa, bordering on Mozambique and Botswana. It can occupy almost any type of wetland, such as pans, rivers, flood plains, ponds, lagoons, dams, swamp forests, mangrove swamps, estuaries, tidal mudflats and patches of short grass close to water.

Distribution of Black stork in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project ( Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

Movements and migrations

Resident and locally nomadic, moving in search of high-quality foraging habitats such as pools and estuaries.


It mainly eats fish, doing most of its foraging by wading through shallow water, stabbing at prey. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Vertebrates
    • fish
      • Clarias (catfish)
        • Clarias gariepinus (Sharptooth catfish)
      • Labeo (mudfishes)
      • Hydrocynus vittatus (Tigerfish)
      • Oreochromis mossambicus (Mozambique tilapia)
      • Cyprinus carpio (Carp)
      • Barbus anoplus (Chubbyhead barb)
    • amphibians
      • Xenopus laevis (Common platanna)
      • Bufo vertebalis (Pygmy toad)
      • Tomopterna delalandi (Cape sand frog)
    • bird nestlings
    • tortoises
  • Invertebrates
    • insects
      • Spodoptera exempta (Armyworms)
    • freshwater snails


  • Monogamous solitary nester, possibly with a life-long pair bond, sometimes sharing the nest cliff with birds of prey, such as Cape vulture, Verreauxs' eagle, Peregrine falcon and Lanner falcon.
  • The nest is built and repaired by both sexes, consisting of a fairly flat platform of dry reeds, sticks and other dry plant matter, with a shallow central bowl lined with grass and other soft material. It is typically placed on a cliff ledge, pothole or cave, sometimes on top of the old nest of a Hamerkop, Verreauxs' eagle or African harrier-hawk.

Black stork at nest with chick, Vaalwater area, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ]

  • Egg-laying season is from April-September, peaking from May-August.
  • It lays 2-5 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 35-36 days.
  • The chicks are brooded almost continually for the first 15 days or so of their lives and are fed by both parents. They leave the nest at about 63-71 days old, becoming fully independent roughly two weeks later.


Not threatened globally, although considered to be locally Near-threatened in South Africa and Endangered in Namibia.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.