White Stork Ciconia ciconia, Белый аист, Սպիտակ արագիլ
Distribution and biological peculiarities in Armenia: The species occupies Europe, Middle East, Caucasus, Central Asia, and North Africa. Armenia is inhabited by subspecies C.c. ciconia Linnaeus, 1758. In Armenia, most of the population is located at Ararat Plain, however the species is also distributed in the northwest near Lake Arpi and along Akhurian River, at the Lori Plateau, and in lower Arpa River valley. White Storks primarily occupy villages located at close proximity to wetlands - the main food source; however can also find food also at cultivated fields, orchards and vineyards. Recently with increase of poultry and fish farms, their waste became another food source for the species. While most of the population migrates to South, about 250-300 individuals continue their stay in Armenia throughout winters, mostly feeding at waste of the farms. The species breeds on power and telephone poles, rooftops, some nests are found on large cisterns and monuments. White Storks can have from 1 to 6 eggs in the clutch, but most frequently are having 2-4 eggs. The fledglings are observed in June-August depending on elevation. The food of the species are mainly adult and juvenile amphibians, small mammals (e.g. voles, water voles, mice, shrews, young rats), large insects (e.g. beetles, grasshoppers, crickets and locusts), snakes, lizards, earthworms, fishes, and sometimes eggs and nestlings of ground-nesting birds, mollusks and crustaceans.
Population dynamics: According to the monitoring data the population of the species is slightly increasing in the period between 2005 and 2015. By data of 2015 the population makes 652 pairs. The most probable reasons for the increase are supposed to be food availability, which are not restricted to the natural food but also human made waste of poultry and fish farms.
Conservation Measures: At current the breeding populations of the species are protected in Lake Arpi National Park and Gnishik Community-managed Protected Landscape. Most of the wetland areas in Ararat Plain and lakes in Lori Province have been proposed to be included into the Emerald Sites protected under Bern Convention. Taking the current increase of population into consideration - the species doesn't require any specific conservation measures. However, since the species is a good indicator of wetland ecosystems - it is necessary to continue the monitoring of White Storks in Armenia. Needless to say that monitoring of the Storks using wide-ranged network of rural communities has a significant educational value.