SEEN - SE European Bird Migration Network
Migration pattern of European Black Storks: satellite-tracking results

Lubomír Peške

Slezská 43, Praha 3, Czech Republic

In the past 11 years a few tens of European Black Storks (Ciconia nigra) were followed using satellite telemetry. The majority were tagged in the Czech Republic, others in Benelux, France, and in 2005, 20 birds from eight different EU countries, spanning the European Union from west to east. Migration of most tagged birds could be followed “in real time” by the public via the web sites of different projects (e.g. African Odyssey, “Solon”, “Flyingover”), main purpose of which was ecological education. However, these data are also important for migration studies as this species (in contrast to, say, flocking or nomadic White Storks, Common Cranes that “teach” their offspring where to migrate or raptors that are often opportunistic) is unique because of its dietary specialization for small freshwater fish, the fact that young inexperienced Black Storks migrate independently from their parents but still reach their “unknown” African winter-grounds (~4000 to 6000 km distant), and adult birds return repeatedly to the same wintering spots though the details of the routes may vary between years.
Birds from the Czech Republic use both main migratory flyways: via Gibraltar and Turkey. However, a small fraction of birds stay in south Spain and some may try to cross Mediterranean over Sicily. In all cases, once south of the Mediterranean, they must pass over a wide desert belt (Sahara and Arabian deserts) before reaching the sub-Saharan savannah zone where they may first find suitable feeding grounds. For European birds two main wintering regions can be distinguished: a large area along the Senegal River (Mauritania, Senegal, Mali) in the west and Ethiopia in the east. In these areas the typical wintering site can be described as ephemeral streams and ponds “marigots” that occur after the rainy season and small mountain rivers. In areas were feeding conditions are good, Black Storks may assemble and form small flocks or loose gatherings of up to few tens of birds. Typical wintering grounds lie between 15 and 5°N, spanning this zone from west to east and birds that migrate through Gibraltar may winter with birds that migrate through Turkey in the central part of the winter range. Summary data about routes and migration timing will be presented with examples of preferred habitats. Examples of extreme individual behaviour will be explained in the context of migration theory.
Protection of Palearctic migratory birds will not be effective until dangerous sites along their migration have been identified and the habitats on their winter grounds conserved. Satellite tracking offers an effective way of identifying such waypoints and important wintering grounds.

Created by Pronetix 2006