Saddle-Billed Stork Order: Long-Legged Wading Birds

Families 5:
  1. Hamerkop
    • 1 Species
  2. Herons
    • 64 Species
  3. Shoebill
    • 1 Species
  4. Storks
    • 17 Species
  5. Ibises and Spoonbills
    • 33 Species

Ciconiiformes - Long Legged Wading Birds

Several bird families have been traditionally considered to form the diverse order Ciconiiformes: herons, storks, ibises, and flamingos. All are long-legged birds that live in or near shallow water. The Flamingo family is uniquely adapted for filtering algae, diatoms, and invertebrates from sediments of shallow lakes by using their peculiar down-bent bills and fleshy tongues. It is possible that the flamingos' relationship lie with either the shorebirds of ducks and geese. Today, taxonomists often place them in their own order, Phoenicoteriformes.

Over sixty species strong, herons form the largest family of the order Ciconiiformes. North American herons range in size from the Least Bittern, which is less than a foot tall, to the 4-foot-tall Great Blue Heron. All are slender-long-necked birds that capture prey with their dagger-like bills. Unlike other long-legged wading birds, herons fly with the neck folded into an "S" shape.

The 17 species of storks range from large to exceptionally large birds and all have heavy bills. Storks are capable of soaring flight, and they feed on a variety of animal matter. Some species are frequent carrion scavengers. In feeding on carrion and in many other anatomical and behavioral characteristics, these storks resemble condors and the New World vultures. It is possible that storks are the New World vultures' closest living relatives.

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Saddle-Billed Stork

In addition to two single-species African families, the final family with the order Ciconiiformes contains ibises and spoonbills have flattened bills with an expanded spoonlike tip. Most birds of this order live in tropical and subtropical climates, though many herons and some storks and ibises live in more temperate zones.