Today, our White stork is taking off from Germany, where it has spent an idyllic summer of love finding a mate, building a nest and raising its young. Now that its chicks have fledged, it is ready to set off on its epic migration across Europe and Africa once again. On the journey to its sub-Saharan wintering grounds, it will risk exhaustion, starvation and the threats of shooting and electrocution. Fortunately, the German city of Rühstädt is part of a network of European ‘Stork Villages’ striving to make sure our storks are in the best possible condition to tackle these challenges.
So, what is a Stork Village? Put simply, it’s a place where storks and people live collaboratively side by side. White storks have traditionally nested on rooftops for centuries, often building toppling nests over a metre tall that get added to year by year. In 1994, the international foundation EuroNatur decided to draw on this friendship between birds and people to reverse the rampant habitat loss suffered by storks across Europe. Every now and then, they award a new parish the status of “Stork Village” – a title that qualifies it as an official natural heritage site. Candidates must have resident stork colonies, and put time and energy into safeguarding them and their wetland habitats. This initiative benefits both people and storks, attracting visitors while protecting storks from danger.