White storks are known for its large size and of course the white color. Not only that the large bird is also known to migrate from one point on this planet to another twice a year. And to do that, they usually fly in a large group.
The travel is very far, thus sometimes they need to take a short break. Having been visited by migrating white storks for centuries, many villages become familiar with the presence of the big white birds.
Some of the villages even call themselves stork village, because of the bonds that their villagers have with the white storks. In that sense, the villagers even form special kinds of bonds with the travelling white storks and become friends.
Here is a telltale of how they formed the bonds and how strong the bonds are.
White Storks in Ruhstadt
Only around 240 people are living in the small village of Ruhstadt in Germany. However, every spring every year, the village is always full of stork nests the size of truck tires. Most of them are located in on the roof of villagers and they are okay with that.
There, the female ones will lay eggs, usually ranging from 1 to 7 eggs, and incubate them for 33-34 days. Each parent takes turn to incubate the eggs, and even take turn to take care of the younger storks until they leave the nests.
But that’s not the main concern for people in Ruhstadt. They are just simply happy to be one of 15 villages in 15 different European countries to become member of European Stork Villages Network (ESVN) with all their heart.
People always prepare for things when it almost comes to the time for the storks to arrive to their village. Local farmers would cut the grass to provide food for the storks if they think food source around the village is low.
They also don’t mind if the roof of their houses is turned into white by the storks, and just clean it wholeheartedly. Not only that, the villagers also keep their village full of white storks’ favorite: elevations which are near wetlands and fields short crops.
Stork Village of Turkey
Another story come from another European stork village in Turkey, the village of Eskikaraagac. The village is where Uncle Adem Yilmaz, a fisherman, lives. The fisherman is known for its close relationship with a stork.
The stork is named Yaren, which mean companion in Turkish. The story started 11 years ago when Yaren suddenly followed Uncle Adem when he was gone fishing and kept coming back every single day since then.
Such phenomenon occurs for the last 11 years for six months every time Yaren is visiting the village. Together they formed a bond beyond species and took the attention from media and visitors who want to witness the beautiful connection.
Everyone in Eskikaraagac is friend with visiting white storks, and the villagers want to keep it this way. Even the villagers unofficially always take care for the nearest nests from their home to make sure the next time the storks visit them, the storks will not get confused.
Even children in the village made a tradition to ‘race’ which stork is coming first to the nest nearest to their home. This way, the people can maintain the sense of belonging to the younger generation to make sure the connections always take place.
The Flightless White Storks
Another beautiful story of connections beyond species come from Croatia, where former school janitor took care of flightless female white stork. Stjepan Vokic rescued the flightless female stork named Malena few years ago and since then took care of her during migration season.
If only Vokic didn’t take the initiative to save the flightless bird, Malena should not have met with her mate named Klepetan. The two met at Vokic’s home, and together the couple have given life to several younger white storks.
When Klepetan was not there for migration, Vokic and his family were the one taking care of Melena and her chicks. Even though Malena finally passed aways a year ago, but the story of a flightless white stork who found love with the help of former janitor has always been a story to tell in Croatia.
Similar story also came from Hungary, but this time the flightless one is the male stork. “We have our version of Malena and Klepetan here in Hungary. The only difference is, Macus, the male stork, is the permanently injured one,” said animal rescuer Andras Marton.
And the story is almost similar as the mate of that male white stork always visit him every single year after migrating back from Africa. “He lives in our garden. Sophie, his ‘wife’ is the wild stork who migrates to Africa and comes back for Macus every year,” Marton said.
What are the Threats They Face?
Those romantic stories always sound good to hear, and of course warm our hearts. But behind those flowers there is a huge thorn that we must all address. Yes, the white storks are doing pretty well with the migration stuffs, but there is a threat they are currently facing in between the flights.
Some of the threats are in the form of modern technology and infrastructures such as electric cables and windmills. 90 per cent of storks visiting stork villages build their nests on electric poles, according to a data collected by Birdlife Hungary.
Since then, electrocution became huge threat to the storks, whether the nesting ones or the flying ones. Even the younger storks learning to fly are also at the risk of getting electrocuted because they are exposed to open wire. The treats also come from other sources such as extreme weather caused by climate change and illegal poachers.
Germany’s Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union recorded increase in breeding couples by up to 85% between 1994 and 2004. That’s a good thing, but with increasing number of threats now on we cannot hope the trend to continue to go up.
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