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Latvia: Look What the Stork Brought!

Nesting storks; Latvia

We’ve all heard the legend about storks — that they bring babies.  In fact, I think that’s what I was told when my younger brother was born.  I was 3 at the time and the explanation seemed plausible.

In Latvia, though, storks mean much more than babies and fertility.  In this northern European country, storks are considered sacred and a good-luck symbol.  You’ll even find them on Latvian coins.  Souvenir shops carry “I Love Latvia” tee-shirts and other items engraved with stork emblems.

Many Latvians go out of their way to attract the big white birds.  When I would take trips into the countryside, it seemed as if there was a pair of storks nesting in a pole next to practically every other house.  The storks are often enticed by locals who hoist a wheel on top of a pole to supply the foundation for a nest.  Some Latvians believe the birds protect their homes from fire and also bring prosperity and happiness.

Sheep graze in the Latvian countryside.  

Storks seem to like Latvia as much as Latvia likes storks.  I’ve seen one report that estimates 10,000 pairs of white storks nest in Latvia each year, making it one of Europe’s most popular destinations for the birds that typically spend their winters in Africa.

I took the photo of storks on the road between Riga and Daugavpils, Latvia’s two largest cities.  Whether the people who live in the adjacent farmhouse are any better off because of the storks’ presence, I have no idea.  But I do know that they are majestic birds that offered a nice diversion — and maybe even a little luck — during long drives through the Latvian countryside.

A park in Daugavpils, Latvia’s second-largest city.  

Copyright © Dan Fellner 2013


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