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an order of birds that includes six families: true herons (Ardeidae), boatbills (Cochleariidae), whaleheads (Balaenicipitidae), hammerheads, or hammerhead herons (Scopidae), storks (Ciconiidae), and ibises (Threskiornithidae). Representatives of these families vary greatly in outward appearance, but most have long beaks, necks, and legs. The bill is conical, with a sharp ridge in storks and herons, and in ibises, an arched curve. Some Ciconiiformes have flat bills with a spadelike broadening at the top (spoonbills), and others have short, very broad, bulbous bills, with a hook on the end (boatbills and whaleheads). Many Ciconiiformes have unfeathered skin areas and a tuft or tufts of long feathers on the back of the head, near the crop, or on the shoulders. The wings are blunt and the tail relatively short.
Ciconiiformes are found throughout the world, but chiefly in the tropics and subtropics. There are 120 species, 22 of which are found in the USSR. All Ciconiiformes inhabit wet areas, such as marshes and the reedy areas along the shores of bodies of water. An exception is the stork, which inhabits meadows, valleys, and forests. Ciconiiformes feed on small animals: amphibians, reptiles, fish, and mammals, as well as large insects, mollusks, crustaceans, and other invertebrates. They seek food on land or in shallow waters, sometimes waiting for it by standing motionless in thick vegetation. They are incapable of pursuing their prey. Their movements are deliberate and their stride long and measured. Their long legs and necks make it possible for Ciconiiformes to notice danger ahead of time in the midst of thick but low vegetation.
Most Ciconiiformes are capable only of active flight, but the storks can soar like birds of prey. They build their nests in trees, more rarely in reeds, and many nest on cliffs or roofs. There are three to five eggs in a clutch. The birds are monogamous, and the parents feed the offspring for two months or more. Young herons and adult specimens of some smaller species readily walk on the branches of shore trees. Ciconiiformes are not commercially exploited, but many species are useful in agriculture, because they destroy harmful insects.
REFERENCESTugarinov, A. la. “Veslonogie, aistoobraznye, flamingo.” In Fauna SSSR: Ptitsy, vol. 1, part 3. Moscow-Leningrad, 1947. (New series, no. 33.)
Ptitsy Sovetskogo Soiuza, vol. 2. Edited by G. P. Dement’eva and N. A. Gladkova. Moscow, 1951.
E. V. KOZLOVA