Several weeks ago in the evening a fellow Birds Korean (Mike Friel), and I were in the Sacheon area just outside of the air base. There is a stream that runs alongside and on this particular day it was somewhat frozen, but still had pockets of water full of wildlife. We noticed something tall, black, and white- lo and behold it was what we imagined, an Oriental Stork Ciconia boyciana. Amazing. We immediately stopped our vehicle and observed quietly.
The Stork was in a feeding frenzy, flapping its brilliant wings and sliding across the sheet of ice intimidating waterfowl such as Mergansers and Mallards, stealing their food. It was quite a sight, somewhat comical, and one that continued until the sun escaped us into the night, as did the Oriental Stork. It was a memorable evening that also left us asking ourselves many questions about the species and its presence in the ROK. There was an article published on the Birds Korea website in 2007 about Oriental Stork that does shed a bit of light on the history of this species in the ROK.
Still, unsure about the current distribution of the non-breeding Oriental Stork which occur in the ROK, I contacted someone quite familiar with the species, very helpful Dr. Kim Su-kyung of Korea Institute of Oriental White Stork Rehabilitation Research. Data was provided that shows there are still small numbers of Oriental Stork recorded that regularly occur throughout the ROK during the non-breeding season, not to mention those that go unnoticed.
Dr. Kim noted that the Institute is set to reintroduce the species in Yesan City, from 2010-2013. Still, although it is a protected species of Natural Heritage in Korea, sadly, there are no actual measures to protect the globally Endangered Oriental Stork or its habitat in the Republic of Korea.
Oriental Stork Ciconia boyciana photo © Mike Friel