The population of a number of stork species is getting in danger because of the loss of wetlands, forests and the long list of threats that migratory birds are facing. Natuurpunt vzw aims as partner of BirdLife International to protect nature and birds in particular. With the stork as flagship species we want to promote the protection of a network of suitable stopover sites for migratory species. Every day these animals struggle to survive, in the breeding areas, as well as in the staging and wintering sites. The White Stork population is currently not in immediate danger of a severe decline but other stork species, such as the Oriental White Stork, are on the edge of extinction.
You will find recent information on the status or behaviour of these species in this chapter.
The Oriental White Stork is larger and heavier that the European White Stork, the biggest difference between the two species is the heavy, black bill.
The Oriental White Stork is a threatened species with an estimated population of only 2.500 individuals.
The Oriental White Stork starts breeding in April or May. It prefers river valleys, floodplains and wetlands in the eastern part of Russia and the northeastern part of China. The species has formerly bred in Japan and Korea.
This stork constructs its nest mainly in trees but is recently also using electricity poles and nesting platforms. In Japan they used to breed on houses. The Oriental White Stork lays 2 to 6 eggs that hatch after 32 to 35 days. The young stay at least for 55 days in the nest.
The Oriental White Stork is migrating in late autumn from its breeding areas along the Amur River in the direction of the Chinese coast to end up in the river basin of the Yangtse. During this 2.000 km long trip the birds interrupt their migration in river valleys in the northeastern part of China and in wetlands along the Chinese coast.
After leaving their nest, the young storks move to river valleys, lakes or floodplains and wait until the end of October to fly fast in a southwesterly direction. In November, the storks start arriving in the winter quarters. Adult birds start the spring migration in March and follow in general the autumn route.
The Oriental White Stork stays in winter in wetlands along the Yangtse rivir, especially in the area around the large lakes like the Poyang lake. The storks feed mainly on small fishes, which they find in flooded areas, fishponds, rice fields or lake and river banks.
The current situation with a declining population of 2.500 individuals in only two region, is dramatic and urgent protection measures are needed. These are some of the important conservation measures (BirdLife International 20001).
- establish protected areas on the Sanjiang plain, China
- expand the Khanka State Reserve, Russia, to include all existing and potential nest-sites
- maintain tall trees for nesting and add artificial nest poles to potential breeding sites
- control over-fishing in the wintering grounds
- control human activities at nest sites between 25th March – 20th July
- campaign against the use of fire by farmers in the breeding grounds
- prevent poisoning from pesticides and poaching
- re-establish viable breeding populations in South Korea and Japan
(1BirdLife International 2000. Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK : Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International).
The government of China has protected several of the important wintering and staging areas of the Oriental White Stork as Ramsar site. These sites include 22.400 ha near Poyang lake (Jiangxi), 105.467 ha in Xianghai (Jilin) and 210.000 ha in Zhalong (Heilongjian).
Information on the Amur 2000 workshop, this workshop was an important start for the preparation of the species’ protection plan.
The Black Stork differs from the White Stork in plumage but also in the fact that the Black Stork feeds mainly on living fish en breeds in forests near small rivers and wetlands.
The breeding area of the Black Stork stretches from Belgium in the west to the most eastern part of Russian in the Amur river basin. In Africa, the Black Stork is breeding in the northern part of South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The largest populations are found in Latvia (900-1.100 pairs), Poland (950-1.100 pairs), White Russia (1.200-1.470 pairs) and Russia (1.000-5.000 pairs). In 1996-1997, the western population was estimated at 388 to 448 pairs, the eastern at 7.409 to 14.166 pairs.
European birds migrate along similar flyways as the European White Stork along two major flyways to their wintering quarters in Africa and back. Around 1.500 to 2.000 Black Storks takes the western route across Spain and Marocco to Mauritania and other countries in western Africa.
Circa 20.000 Black Storks migrate through Turkey and the Middle East to Israel and eastern Africa.
For both flyways the peak migration period is situated in autumn from the 10th of September till the middle of October, with the latest migrants passing in the middle of November. In spring, the first Black Storks arrive in the breeding area at the end of February, but the peak migration season in the Mediterranean is in March till the middle of April.
the Black Stork is wintering in small numbers in Europe, especially in Spain. The most important northern wintering region is the fishpond complex in the north of Israel where up to 1.450 Black Storks spend the winter (W. Van den Bossche 1996).
In Africa, the Black Stork is wintering south of 16° N to the equator. In the western part of African is the species concentrating in Mauritania along the river Senegal, where flocks of tens of storks occur. Single birds or small groups winter in Senegal, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Niger. The largest part of the population winters in eastern Africa in Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda and Chad. In Asia, the Black Stork is certainly wintering in India and Saudi Arabia.
The breeding birds of southern Africa spend the winter most likely in South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Several colleagues study the migration and behaviour of Black Storks by tracking them with satellite transmitters and ground observations. You can find some of the data on the following websites :
Belgian Black Storks :
Since 1995, asbl Solon is studying the breeding and migratory behaviour of Black Storks that breed in Wallonia, Luxembourg and France.
Hungarian Black Storks
Spanish Black Storks :
The migration of Black Storks through the bottleneck area in the region of Tarifa and Gibraltar in southern Spain is closely monitored in the project ‘Migres’ and local ornithologists such as Cristina Parkes and Alejandro Torés.
Black Storks in the Czech Republic :
The project ‘African Odyssee’ tracks storks from the Czech Republic along their route to Senegal, Ethiopia, Chad, Sudan and Nigeria.