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Did somebody order a baby? 

Shara Burger | Conservation

Legend has it that newborn babies are delivered by a rather sharp beaked, long-legged bird, better known as a stork. We have become so used to this odd portrayal that we don’t actually question why storks and babies are associated with one another. 

Although there are many myths about the stork and the baby which have origins across the globe, it is most likely to have originated during Pagan times in Northern Europe. During this era couples married in the summer, a season associated with fertility. This was the same time of year that the storks would start their annual migration to Africa returning exactly nine months later. The birds return coincided exactly with many babies being born and so, they became the proclaimers of new life and spurred on the mythical idea of the stork delivering babies. 

Babies or not, the White Stork is a long-distant migratory bird that cleverly manages to avoid the bitter European winters. Setting out in Europe at the end of summer they follow the straits of Gibraltar souring with the heavy thermal systems over the Sahara Dessert, then south along the Nile and finally settling in an African country, anywhere from Sudan to South Africa.  

This journey is often over 20 000 kms which takes approximately 50 days, on this journey they use the thermals so efficiently that they actually manage to conserve energy. Incredibly, these flocks can number up to as many as 11 000 birds, that’s a lot of babies!

If this myth did hold any truth to it then we are all in for a big surprise in the Timbavati as currently the many open areas of the reserve are filled with flocks of these elegant White Storks. But, luckily, so far, no babies have been spotted dangling from their beaks! 



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