Storks thrive in Germany because climate change changes migration routes
They call her "German capital of storks", because nowhere else in Germany there is such a high concentration of nests of these birds on the roofs. TO Uehlfeld, in Bavaria, in 2023 there were 53: In the world of storks, word must have gotten around that in this small Franconian town with 3,000 inhabitants, things are just fine. However, in large parts of Germany the stork population is growingas he says Kai-Michael Thomsenstork expert of the Naturschutzbund Deutschland, the largest German environmental association.
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Nearly extinct in the country, now nearly 10,000 of these migratory birds have returned to breed on German rooftops.i, especially in western Germany, especially in Baden-Württemberg and in Lower Saxony. They only seem to have fallen out of love with Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The reason for this phenomenon is still difficult to explain from a scientific point of view, experts say. Second Wolfgang Fiedlerornithologist at the Max Planck Institute, the increase in stork colonies could also be linked to the change in their migratory behaviour. In fact, the number of storks who choose the western route to reach the wintering quarters, which in most cases are no longer in Africa as happened in the past.
About two-thirds of the "German" storks now they go to spend the coldest months in Spain, where they can easily find food in landfills and where they have a better chance of survival compared to those who choose the migratory route of the Levant which, with thousands of kilometers more on their wings, in some cases takes them as far as South Africa. Since the number of birds migrating to Spain has grown, there are more and more German villages where storks decide to nest. Especially in the south and south-west of Germany, places with more than ten pairs of storks on their roofs are no longer an exception. Exceptional - for now - are only cases like that of Uehlfeld where at the entrance to the town a sign was jokingly affixed with the inscription "Attention! Storks flying at low altitude!", which is not so imaginative, given that some truck driver found himself in front of one of these birds almost at eye level.
But it's not all roses and flowers: if the increase in the population of birds that carry children in popular iconography has ensured a good flow of tourists to the Franconian country with binoculars in hand to observe the unusual spectacle, the problems are not they are missing. When the storks have decided that a place is the ideal situation to set up their nest, it is difficult to dissuade them, and the matter becomes more complicated when the chosen place is unsuitable, as in the case of working fireplaces. A few years ago in the Bavarian "stork capital" a pair of birds made their nest on the chimney of a brewery, blocking its production. Another chose the fireplace of a boarding house, preventing the use of heating, and forcing guests to go to bed wearing a sweater and woolen socks.
In some locations, firefighters have had to remove nests blocking chimneys, risking carbon monoxide poisoning for those living in the house. And then there's the problem of feces traces and clogged gutters. With more and more storks choosing the short route back to Germany after wintering, the race for the best nesting situation is set to become increasingly competitive and according to Thomsen the problem of overcrowding on rooftops is set to present itself with increasing intensity in the future. There will also be a natural stabilisation, but at some point the competition between the birds will be so great that fights will escalate, with eggs being kicked out of each other's nests. And the stress will become such that reproduction will be reduced, bringing fewer specimens back to the same roofs after wintering in the heat.