The white storks are an extraordinary attraction during our tours to Romania. They are a vivid landmark in the rural areas of our country, cherished by the locals and travelers alike.
You can encounter these birds in the beautiful Saxon villages of Transylvania, the quaint rural regions of Szekelyland, or the charming Maramures land.
Though one of the few mute birds, the white stork has echoed in our country's ancient culture and popular beliefs. That is why we dedicate this short article to the white stork in Romania: stories, curiosities, and superstitions.
As a migratory bird, the white stork arrives in Romania in late March – the beginning of April and leaves the country in mid-August. So, if you wish to enjoy this travel experience in Romania, we recommend you plan your visit from April to August.
A white stork can reach heights of over 1.5 m, a wingspan of over 3m, and a weight of up to 4.5 kg. The stork is one of the few mute birds. The only noise it makes is the beak clamping.
The stork is also one of the longest-lived birds, with an average age of 30 years. It lives in Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia. The largest populations of storks are in Poland (around 52 000 pairs) and Ukraine. Around 5500 pairs live in Romania, and their number increases year by year.
2. The white stork in Romania – stories, curiosities
The white stork is an exceptional bird in the Romanian popular believes. It has been considered sacred since Roman times.
Moreover, the stork was the sacred bird of the goddess Venus in Roman mythology. In those days, a stork making its nest on the roof of a house meant that those who lived there received Venus's blessings of love.
Aristotle believed that killing a stork was equivalent to murder.
In Romania, if the stork builds its nest on the roof of a house, it is believed that the house will be protected by fire, and the family will enjoy good luck and prosperity for the rest of the year.
In ancient times, especially in the Moldova region, a cartwheel was placed on the roofs of houses so that the stork could make a nest and protect the family from thieves. We might say it was cheaper this way than installing a security camera for the house.
Though originally, these birds built their nests in old trees and rocks. Today, their more domesticated descendants usually choose human settlements on roofs, old and tall chimneys, church towers, and electric poles. The stork is dependent on humans not only for where it nests but also for places to look for food: pastures and farmed meadows near water and agricultural land where it is easier to find fish, insects, worms, mice, moles, frogs, and snakes.
The storks’ nest
One of the most interesting curiosities about stork is its nest. Although it seems trivial, the stork’s nest is one of the most spectacular and complex constructions made in the animal world. It is built of branches, roots, soil to which there are added straw, hay, grass, sometimes even paper and rags. A pair of storks build such a nest in a week. After numerous repairs, the nest can reach 2m in height, 0.8–1.5 m in diameter, and 60–250 kg in weight.
Usually, the pair of storks use the same nest for several years in a row. Some nests can reach several decades of age. Thus, the oldest known nest in Romania is found in the locality of Burghiu in Mures county, Transylvania. It was built in 1934 and was occupied by storks in 2004 as well. Storks return to nesting sites in late March, early April. Usually, the male arrives first, immediately occupies the nest, and begins the renovation.
3. Romanian superstitions about the white stork
In a world championship of superstitions, we believe the Irish and Romanians would be finalists. There are quite a few aspects of life that are not analyzed or foreseen due to different signs related to animals, weather, plants, etc. Well, what would life be like without some fun, right?
Storks make no exception and do trust when we say that after reading about the following Romanian superstitions, your life will never be the same again:
1. If you see a stork flying, that is a sign that a journey awaits you.
2. If you see a stork on the ground, it is said that you will not have a very prosperous year.
3. People have noticed that storks love the warm seasons and return in early spring – when nature is reborn, therefore they have been seen as new life bearers.
4. If storks leave early for warmer countries, it is said that the winter will be hard. If they leave later, the winter will be short and warm. A saying is still used today: “The storks are not gone yet; we will have a mild winter.” Indeed, in the past years, Google ruined this for us with his accurate weather forecast.
5. The stork announces when a house catches fire in the village by hitting its beak.
6. If a man ruins a stork nest, he will lose his house in a fire. Powerful curse, right?
7. If you see two storks in the sky, you will be with your loved one all year round. But if you see only one stork, you will be left alone for the rest of the year.
8. Whoever kills a stork is stalked by bad luck.
The white storks in Romania have become symbols for many regions and they are strongly connected to our culture. These birds are protected by law and also by many NGOs across the country. Today, we can admire and observe them live thanks to technology. Here is an example with the live cam.
The white storks are definitely a highlight for a Photo Tour to Romania, a cultural or active trip alike. You could also check the small group Countryside of Romania tour that will take you to beautiful rural areas and discover the special bond between nature and humans.