Storks spend more and more winters in Switzerland

Stork of the town: Mingling with the locals in a Basel park in 2017 Keystone

While the lack of human visitors is bringing the Swiss tourism industry to its knees, storks increasingly prefer to spend their winters in the Alpine nation instead of migrating to Africa.

This content was published on October 12, 2020 - 14:10

Within a year the number of breeding pairs in Switzerland increased by 18% and over 1,000 young birds have been counted. In January 2020, 669 breeding pairs were counted, said Peter Enggist, head of the association Stork Switzerland. A year earlier, the figure had been 566.

Enggist said the stork was extinct in Switzerland 70 years ago. He explained that the release of young storks began in the 1960s in canton Solothurn in northern Switzerland and over the past ten years the Swiss stork population had increased by 10% a year.

Enggist said this was because practically no storks belonging to western populations spent the winter in Africa anymore, preferring landfills in Switzerland and Spain. However, climate change is not to blame for this – it’s the abundant food found in landfills. In the Sahel zone in northern Africa storks risk starving or being hunted, he said.

Last winter 600 storks stayed in Switzerland, according to Enggist. These birds then got the best nests in spring and subsequently produced the most young.

In order to investigate the behaviour of the storks, more than 60 storks have been equipped with transmitters.

In addition to the stork colony of Altreu in Solothurn, there are many birds in the Murimoos animal park in canton Aargau, at the Swiss National Stud Farm in Avenches and in Uznach, canton St Gallen. However, there have never been storks in the mountain regions.

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