World White storks only fly to Spain

White storks only fly to Spain


DThe loud clatter drowns out the sounds of the nearby motorway. A pair of storks have settled at the exit of the Rivas-Vaciamadrid metro. The birds built their nests on all high masts along the station on the railway line to Madrid, 20 kilometers away. There is no space left on the roof of the old brick church. The area southeast of the Spanish capital is one of the most popular winter quarters on the Iberian Peninsula. Thousands of storks from Spain and Central Europe can not be disturbed by the nearby metropolis. Fewer and fewer of them continue across the Strait of Gibraltar to West Africa.

“There are two river valleys nearby, small lakes and rubbish dumps,” says Ana Bermejo of the Spanish bird protection organization SEO / Bird Life. She is one of the coordinators of the “Migra” program and has worked on a study that was recently launched. For seven years, researchers have studied the routes of the white storks that hibernate or fly on in Spain.

Conclusion: More and more white storks choose the short distance. Instead of traveling more than 5,000 kilometers to the Sahel region, they only fly around 1,500 kilometers from Central Europe to Spain. Together with other scientists, including from the German Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, the researchers equipped 79 storks with GPS transmitters. It turned out that the older Spanish storks hardly left their home country. Four fifths of them stay in Spain; only a lot of young storks are still far away.

Garbage dumps and rice fields offer plenty of food

People have created an important reason for this development. “Every stork we monitored has stopped at a dump at least once,” says Ana Bermejo. There the birds find so much to eat that they no longer move very far. Climate change with shorter winters also plays a role here. However, Ana Bermejo prefers to speak of “global change” for which people are responsible. This applies to the huge amounts of waste and the growing areas that irrigate farmers: in addition to the landfills, the storks in Spain also love the moist rice fields. There, as on other shores and estuaries, they prefer an intruder that is multiplying in Spain – the red American swamp crab, which, as the name suggests, comes from the United States.



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