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Why Are Storks Associated with Newborn Babies?

Margaret Lipman
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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If you’ve ever been to a baby shower, or simply browsed a selection of “New Baby” greeting cards, you will have undoubtedly noticed one of the prominent images associated with birth: a stork flying with a cloth bundle (perhaps pink or blue), with a newborn baby inside, hanging from its long, sharp beak. As a child, you may have even been told the story that storks deliver babies to parents, rather than learning about human reproduction.

But how did this myth come about? What are the origins of the popular association between storks and newborn babies?

Interestingly, the idea that storks bring babies is tied to the folklore of numerous regions, including the Americas, Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. Storks tend to build their nests close to people, and it’s common to see the huge white birds taking care of their chicks atop structures such as church towers and telephone poles.

There are several ancient myths connecting large birds such as cranes, herons, and pelicans with concepts of birth and maternal care. However, the species was often confused in retellings and translations, such as the tale of Queen Gerana, who is commonly described as having been transformed into a stork by the jealous Greek goddess Hera. The description of Gerana stealing her baby back from Hera by carrying him in her beak aligns closely with our image of baby-bringing storks, although in the original myth, Gerana was a crane, not a stork.

The association between storks and fertility was cemented during the medieval era in Northern Europe. In pagan societies in Germany and Norway, couples commonly wed during the summer solstice, which happened to coincide with the annual migration of storks from Europe to Africa. The birds would return the following spring to have their chicks after an absence of roughly nine months, just as many human babies were being born to the newlyweds. It’s not difficult to see how the two events could be connected by the idea that the storks were responsible for bringing the babies.

Superb storks:

  • In certain parts of Europe, storks were associated with purity, monogamy, and luck, with families believing that a stork nesting on the roof would bring good fortune and possibly a baby.

  • On the other side of the world in North America, Sioux legends connected storks (specifically, the wood stork), with fertility and new life.

  • The European legends were further popularized by the dark fairy tale “The Storks” by Hans Christian Andersen, in which babies were delivered by storks to deserving families (and, in a rather horrific twist, families with poorly behaved children were given a dead newborn.)

  • The idea that storks delivered babies fit with Victorian notions of modesty (or perhaps more accurately, prudishness), as a convenient way to avoid discussing the biological realities behind the “birds and the bees.”

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Margaret Lipman
By Margaret Lipman , Writer and editor
With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range of topics. Her articles cover essential areas such as finance, parenting, health and wellness, nutrition, educational strategies. Margaret's writing is guided by her passion for enriching the lives of her readers through practical advice and well-researched information.

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Margaret Lipman

Margaret Lipman

Writer and editor

With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range...
Learn more
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