The name of this bird is evidently derived from the Hebrew hheʹsedh, meaning loving-kindness or loyal love, as at Genesis 19:19. Thus hhasi·dhahʹ indicates a kind and loyal creature, and this description fits the stork well, as it is noted for its tender care of its young and its loyalty to its lifelong mate.
The stork is a large, long-legged wading bird similar to the ibis and heron. The white stork (Ciconia alba) has white plumage except for the flight feathers of its wings, which are a glossy black. An adult stork may stand as much as four feet (1.2 meters) high, measuring nearly four feet (1.2 meters) in body length, and with a magnificent wingspan that may extend up to nearly seven feet (2.1 meters). Its long red bill is broad at the base and sharply pointed and is used by the stork in probing in the mud for frogs, fish or small reptiles while wading in marshes or striding through pastures in an ungainly manner on its long red legs. In addition to small water creatures, it feeds on grasshoppers and locusts and also may resort to carrion and offal. The stork was included in the list of unclean creatures, which, according to the Law covenant, the Israelites were prohibited from eating.—Lev. 11:19; Deut. 14:18.
When reprimanding the apostate people of Judah who failed to discern the time of Jehovah’s judgment, the prophet Jeremiah called their attention to the stork and other birds that ‘well know their appointed times.’ (Jer. 8:7) The stork regularly migrates through Palestine and Syria from its winter quarters in Africa, appearing in large flocks during March and April. Of the two kinds of stork found in Palestine, the white stork and the black stork (Ciconia nigra), the former only occasionally remains to breed in that region, often making its nest on houses but also nesting in trees. The black stork, so named for its black head, neck and back, is more common in the Dead Sea area and in Bashan and seeks trees, where available, to build its nest. The psalmist referred to the storks nesting in the tall juniper trees.—Ps. 104:17.
Contrasting the flightless ostrich with the highflying stork, Jehovah asked Job: “Has the wing of the female ostrich flapped joyously, or has she the pinions of a stork and the plumage?” (Job 39:13) The stork’s pinions are of great breadth and power, the secondary and tertiary feathers being almost as long as the primaries, giving an immense surface to the wing and enabling the stork to be a bird of lofty and long-continued flight. A stork in flight soaring on its powerful wings, with its neck extended and its long legs stretched out straight behind it, makes an imposing sight. The two women seen in Zechariah’s vision (5:6-11) carrying an ephah measure containing the woman called “Wickedness” are described as having “wings like the wings of the stork.” The reference to the ‘wind in their wings’ (vs. 9) harmonizes also with the rushing sound produced by the air passing through the stork’s pinions. The primary feathers are fingered out in flight so that slots are formed at the ends of the wings, thereby controlling the airflow over the top of the wings and improving their lifting power.