The spectacle of thousands of White Storks (Ciconia ciconia) wheeling overhead as they pass over the Mountains, on their spring migration, is one of the great natural sights in Lebanon.

What starts off as looking like a cloud of rapidly moving insects soon clearly becomes a flock of birds (Below) – it is only when they are overhead that you realize each one is a huge bird with a wing span of over a metre and a half. It is estimated that in the spring most of the East European breeding population of White Storks (Ciconia ciconia) travel through Lebanon.

Two Species migrate through Lebanon

Very large numbers of White Stork pass through Lebanon in the spring, with fewer in the autumn. Flocks can number thousands or just a few individuals. Often mixed up with the large flocks are a few of the second species to pass through Lebanon; the Black Stork (Ciconia nigra) However, this species can also appear on its own, individually or in small flocks. The black Stork is a much rarer bird, internationally, than the White Stork being a shy bird of wet forests in its breeding range.

It is easy to tell the 2 species apart if you get a good view; both birds are back & white but the Black Stork, left, has a black neck, head and shoulders, where as in the White Stork, right, these are white.

Although usually seen overhead, as with the flying Black Storks, above left, sometimes individual birds, small and, even occasionally, large flocks descend to roost, either overnight or to wait for bad weather to clear. These roosting birds can be seen throughout the country where there are safe areas – fields, wetlands or perching in trees. A few birds, of both species, can be seen in the wetlands of the Bekaa for periods of several weeks if they are undisturbed. The bird below shows the characteristic long red bill of the species with which it will snap up frogs, insects, small mammals and lizards that make up its diet.