Storks are fertility symbols and are associated with springtime and birth. Children throughout Europe and America are taught that the stork delivers newborns to their mothers. In some areas, it is thought that the stork can cause a woman to become pregnant merely by looking at her.
It was believed that the souls of unborn children lived in watery areas such as marshes, wells, springs, and ponds. Since storks frequented such areas, they were thought to fetch the babies' souls and deliver them to their parents. In Germany, storks found human infants called "stork-children" dwelling in caves hidden in rocky steeps called "Adeborsteine" or "stork-stones," and carried them to their expectant parents. Children who wanted a baby brother or sister were encouraged to sing their desires to the stork. Naughty little boys were carried in the bird's bill while nice ones rode upon its back.
Its migratory habits made it an emblem of the traveler. Along with other migratory birds, storks were biblical symbols of sensible backsliders who knew when to return to the straight and narrow. In the lands they departed from, storks were believed to become people and dwell as humans when they arrived at their winter destinations. It was thought that they cried human tears when hurt or saddened.
Storks are commonly believed to bring good fortune. In Germany, they were known as "Adebar" which means "luck-bringer." In the Netherlands, a stork nesting on one's roof is welcomed as a good omen, but in Morocco it is a sign that the house will be abandoned by its occupants. To kill a stork will cause one to have bad luck. The arrival of clean, white storks in the spring heralds a good summer but dirty storks are portents of a bad year. Storks, hurriedly abandoning their nests, are omens of great misfortune, pestilence, and war.
Because they are rumored to feed their elderly parents, storks are a symbol of filial piety or gratitude. They are emblems of immortality and longevity. Legend says they live an incredibly long time. When they are 600 years old they stop eating solid food and at 2000 years of age they turn black and keep on living.