Imagine coming home after a long day at work, pulling into your driveway, looking up on the roof, and seeing a White Stork perched there. Sure, this is normal occurrence across much of Europe and southwest Asia but this particular tale comes from out on the east end of New York’s Long Island, in the town of Medford, where this happened to an unsuspecting non-birder, Celeste Rovner.

Fortunately, she had the presence of mind to get a picture (not the one at the top of this post, which was taken in Hungary).

White Storks are long distance migrants but this would be an astounding record if it were a wild bird. That seems highly unlikely though, as White Storks don’t even like flying across the Mediterranean on their migrations back and forth between Africa and Eurasia. They detour around the eastern end of the sea or to the west where they use the Strait of Gibraltar to get back and forth. In fact, a wild White Stork has never graced the western hemisphere and is missing from the American Birding Association checklist. It seems likely that this individual bird was an escape from a local zoo, as has already been theorized on the New York State listserv.

But, and here is where I will end up pilloried, this wouldn’t be outside the window of a northward migrating White Stork, which usually arrive back on their breeding grounds in late March or early April. And eastern Long Island has seen its share of visitors from the east this year, with everything from Tufted Ducks to Northern Lapwings to a host of Eurasian Wigeons showing up. Not only that, but the bird in the picture shows no sign of having been banded which may have to do with the quality of the image, but still! Imagine the long, lonely flight of a White Stork over the entirety of the Atlantic Ocean, blown off course as it tried to find its way back to its breeding grounds. That’s a lot more fun than a bird that sneaked out of the zoo, isn’t it? (And an update: it seems that the bird was seen two weeks ago a couple of houses down from Celeste’s so it seems even less likely that this is a wild vagrant.)

Regardless of this bird’s provenance the tale of a White Stork on Long Island will make at least one 10,000 Birds beat writer happy.

Thanks to Derek Rogers for getting this story onto the New York State listserv.

Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.