Protecting white storks in Europe

White Storks – the black-and-white gliders

Storks move just like gliders: they use thermals and allow themselves to be carried to great heights without flapping their wings. From this height they then glide over great distances down to the foot of the next thermal. If they had to flap their wings these elegant great birds would not be able to cover the distances to their winter quarters. The lack of thermals is one of the reasons why storks do not take a direct route across the Mediterranean to reach South Africa. The vast mass of water form an insurmountable barrier for these birds as water does not heat up as much as land and so does not create the thermals they need.

What are the storks' migration routes?
Storks take two routes to their wintering sites. Almost like a watershed, there is a line along which the eastward flyers separate from the westward flyers. This line runs right through the middle of Germany (from Holland to the Harz; and there it takes a bend to the South to the Alps). The westward migration route leads over the Iberian Peninsula to Morocco and from there to central Africa. The eastern route leads over the Balkans, the Gulf of Iskenderun, the countries of the Middle East over to East, Central and South Africa.

What are the threats to storks?

Where storks are at home, the quality of life is good. In such places farming is carried out in a way that a variety of animal and plant species can survive and there is an abundance of grasshoppers, lizards and other prey. But change in the land use is above all what threatens the White Stork in Europe: extensive grazing meadows are becoming less and less profitable with the result that more and more important stork habitats are little by little being lost. Open, wet grasslands - which means traditionally farmed, extensively used meadows and grazing land - are in short supply in Europe. Today the meadows are most often cut at the wrong time of year or cut too often. And to do this work farmers use heavy agricultural machinery which finishes off frogs, lizards, mice and moles, depriving the stork of its livelihood.

What actions is EuroNatur taking?

  • Protecting stork habitats: we create convincing model projects to show how species-rich meadows and grasslands can be preserved in Europe in order to allow the stork sufficient habitat in cultivated land.
  • Improving the legal groundwork: through nature conservation lobbying at EU level we campaign for the improvement of the framework conditions for the conservation of species-rich meadows and grazing country in Europe.
  • Supporting positive role models: to villages and communities in which there are stork colonies and which actively support the protection of storks we award the title of European Stork Village and so make them known internationally as special cultural and natural heritage sites.

European Stork Villages

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Preservation of habitats

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Portrait of the White Stork

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An Unlikely Tourist Attraction in Poland: Storks - Barbara Whitaker on nytimes.com

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