Ciconia nigra (Linnaeus, 1758)
Conservation status: in Bulgaria: Vulnerable VU [D], BDA-II, III; International: CITES-II, BeC-II, BoC-II, ECS-Spec 3, BD-I.
General distribution. A Palearctic species. It breeds in almost all European countries (without Finland, Norway, Great Britain, Eire, Iceland, Switzerland and Cyprus), Asia (in the south to the Persian Gulf, in the east to Sahalin island) and South Africa. The European population numbers about 8 000 breeding pairs  .
Distribution and abundance in Bulgaria. A breeding summer visitor and passage migrant, it partly winters. In the middle of the 20th century it was on the threshold of extinction . Thirty-five years later, the population was estimated at 50 pairs, 30 of them breeding along the valley of the Arda River . At the end of the 20th century, during special studies, it was established that the population numbered 200-220 pairs. About 48% of them breed in the Rhodopes, in the valley of the middle reaches of the Tundzha River – 19%, in the valley of the Danube – 10%, etc. . Recently, the population has been estimated at 300-550 breeding pairs . In the rice fields to the north of Plovdiv, some several tens of birds have been regularly wintering since 1978, making this the first known wintering site of the species in the Western Palearctic [6, 7].
Habitats. Flat and mountainous deciduous forests, rock complexes, gorges of rivers, reservoirs, microreservoirs, fish farms, rice fields, etc. The largest number of breeding places (31%) is registered at altitudes between 600 and 800 m, and the smallest (0,5%) at altitudes between 1 200 and 1 300 m .
Biology. The spring migration is from the beginning of March to the beginning of April. The young ones (between 2 and 4) remain in the nest until the second half of July or the beginning of August. The autumn migration is from the second half of August to the end of October . The late autumn and winter wanderings are from the beginning of November to the end of February. It mainly feeds on fish.
Similar species. The White Stork (Ciconia ciconia).
Negative factors. Pollution of the wetlands, persecution in fish farms, etc.
Conservation measures taken. Protected according to the Biological Diversity Act. Included in the Red Data Book of Bulgaria (1985). For persecuting, disturbing, destroying or collecting eggs, collecting found dead birds, stuffing, sale, export, etc. the fine is up to 5 000 levs for physical persons, and for trade companies and legal personalities up to 10 000 levs.
Conservation measures needed. Monitoring of the population every 5 years. Establishment of the exact coordinates of every certain breeding habitat. Declaring new Protected Territories in connection with the guaranteed preservation of 20% of the breeding places in the country. Prevention of the dehydration of mountain rivers for the needs of small water power stations.
References. 1. BirdLife International, 2004; 2. Patev, 1950; 3. Michev, 1985; 4. Petrov et al., 1991; 5. Ornithological Database of BSPB, 2006; 6. Darakchiev, Nikolov, 1984; 7. Nikolov, 1987; 8. Simeonov et al., 1997.
Authors: Tseno Petrov, Hristo Nikolov, Andon Darakchiev