Ooievaars zonder grenzen
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Stork tales


Early spring, the daylight is getting longer, the sun is giving warmth, spring is in the air. Flowers are blooming, the dawn chorus of songbirds is at its peak and migratory birds return from the south. When you hear the clattering of the storks : you can be sure, spring is in the air!

                   Photo: K. Struyf

Since many centuries is the return of the stork one of the most impressive signals that spring is returning to Europe. When the stork returned, people knew that the long, dark and cold winter was at its end. The farmers could put their cattle in the meadows and started to plough the fields. It was like this black and white bird brought the spring to the country. People called this bird ‘ooievaar’, which means ‘luck’ (ode) and bringing (baren). The house that had the pleasure to welcome a nesting stork was blessed and free of all bad luck. This should be a year with a good crop. Lightning was for somebody else and the inhabitants of the house would be free of sickness and bad omens.

In the Middle Ages were people in the cities convinced that the presence of the stork was preventing fires. This had probably something to do with the way the birds bring water to their young.

The stork pays a visit ….!

For many people in Europe is the stork still the ‘bringer of new life’ or the ‘baby-carrier’. During the pregnancy and birth people say, the stork has been visiting. On many birth-cards is the stork pictured and in many regions in Flanders is it still the habit to put a wooden stork in the garden when a child is born.

There are at least two meanings for the word ‘ooievaar’. The first one is the old Teutonic word udafaran, which means ‘swamp walker’. In other words : a bird that walks in wetlands.
An old German word for ‘ooievaar’(stork) is odobero. This means ‘bringing luck’. This second meaning is of course connected to the historic belief that storks bring the babies to the people. We know better (or don’t we).

The stork has become the symbol of birth.