Animals: Nabu campaign: Why do white storks winter in Germany?

How many white storks spend the winter in Germany and above all: why? The German Nature Conservation Association (Nabu) would like to find out with the help of a participatory campaign.

Animals: Nabu campaign: Why do white storks winter in Germany?

How many white storks spend the winter in Germany and above all: why? The German Nature Conservation Association (Nabu) would like to find out with the help of a participatory campaign.

People who have discovered one or more white storks are asked to report their sighting to Nabu. Between November 1st and January 31st, 2024, you can enter your observation on the online platform www.NABU-naturgucker.de/weissstorch. There they should, among other things, state the location of the sighting and the number of animals.

Interesting facts about the white stork

White storks have predominantly white feathers, only the flight feathers and parts of the tops of their wings are black. The legs and long beak are strikingly red. The large birds live in open landscapes with wet meadows, streams, pastures and meadows.

“As a long-distance migrant, it actually winters in Africa,” says Bernd Petri from the Federal White Stork Protection Working Group. However, there has been a change in the migration behavior of the animals for several years.

According to the working group's regular observations, several hundred birds have spent the winter in Germany in recent years. Other animals stayed on the Iberian Peninsula instead of flying on to Africa.

Nabu's assumptions

Little is known about the reasons so far. Nabu suspects that climate change plays a role: "In increasingly milder winters with little snow, white storks as food opportunists now usually find enough mice, worms, small fish and waste in open garbage dumps."

According to the information, white storks move south in winter not because of the cold, but because they otherwise cannot find enough food. “If the birds stay here, they save themselves the energy-sapping migration,” explains Petri. In addition, they reach the breeding areas earlier than their migrating counterparts and can occupy the best nest locations. Supplementary feeding and reintroduction programs could also play a role.

Could the birds freeze to death due to the cold winter in Germany? There is no reason to worry, says Petri. "As a large bird, the cold hardly bothers the stork, as it can retain heat much better than small songbirds such as tits and sparrows - and after all, they also overwinter with us."

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