(translation: Nick van Wouwen)
The Stork is a bird that is closely linked to the Netherlands and the traditional Dutch landscape. But it very nearly died out in the Netherlands in the first half of the twentieth century. Many volunteers and the Dutch bird protection society Vogelbescherming Nederland have worked hard for the last forty years to get the stork to come back to the Netherlands to breed. At present, things seem to be going well. The number of breeding pairs has increased, more young birds survive, and the breeding areas are expanding.
But it would be too easy to say that if things are going so well, human involvement can stop. The balance has not yet been found. More work needs to be done. The Vogelbescherming society aims to go on improving the environment for storks, and the working stations that were created in the earlier phases will be continued independently. For all other activities a new foundation was created and named, on the first of January 2009, STORK. STORK is an acronym based both on the Dutch words STichting Ooievaars Research and Knowhow and the english species name Stork.
The STORK foundation aims to continue working with the independent working stations and with Dutch nature study and preservation organisations such as SOVON, Vogeltrekstation (which studies bird migration) and the Vogelbescherming Nederland society. The STORK foundation will monitor all observations of storks in the Netherlands and breeding results, carry out winter countings, provide bird rings for young birds, publish research data, inform the broader public, and act as a point of contact for all questions about storks from inside and outside the Netherlands.
The collected data will enable the foundation researchers to follow developments in the Dutch stork population. Some results can be shared now:
More and more often, storks in the Netherlands are seen to build their own nests on trees, roofs and chimneys
Storks show a preference for small-scale variety in landscape, with a high level of ground water. Woody hedgerows, rough land, drier and wetter fields in variation increase the chances of finding food
During the first weeks, the young are dependent on worms, larvae, and large insects such as crickets and bugs. In the later phase they can also manage larger prey such as mice and moles
A large and varied offer of food increases reproduction chances for stork. The average number of young per nest is one or two
Weather circumstances during the nest period may influence survival chances for the young
Nearly all young storks born in the Netherlands migrate. The main route is via France and Spain to West Africa
Many young do not survive their first migration. Above-ground electricity networks in France particularly make many casualties. The hunt of storks and bad food situations in wintering areas (droughts in particular) also take their toll
Only ten to twenty per cent of all young born in the Netherlands reach adulthood and the breeding stage
Much more research is needed, as well as continued protection measures. One big question is whether a breeding result of 1.5 young bird per breeding pair is sufficient to keep the population going. And will a 10-20% survival rate ensure enough increase to balance the death of older birds? Is there a relationship between climate change and migration behaviour in birds? The data collected by STORK should contribute to finding an answer to these questions.
STORK is a small foundation run by volunteers. It receives no subsidies, but is dependent on gifts and donations. So any support you are willing to give will be most welcome.
You can help the storks:
By offering a nesting place, you can help the storks. Working stations in your region may be able to tell you whether you live in a suitable area for this. If so, storks may select the nesting place you offer. We strongly advise you NOT to feed storks, since this will disturb their natural patterns and make them dependent on humans. If you find a stork and are in a position to read the rings, please send the data to the STORK foundation.
You can help the STORK foundation:
Financial support is most welcome, since the work done by the foundation is costly. The ring for a young stork, for example, costs E7.50. A volunteer will place the ring, for free, but the material is not free.
STORK has applied for a position as an officially approved charity (ANBI) under Dutch law. That would mean that STORK will not have to pay taxes on donations and gifts received. Likewise, you may add donations to STORK to your list of deductable gifts to charities under Dutch tax law. Similarly, under this law, bequests to STORK will be tax-free. This will enable STORK to do more with your gifts. The website of STORK will show the moment the application has been granted.
In the Netherlands, a flying stork brings joy to those who see it. In the early twentieth century they were still quite common. In 1910, bird specialist Jan Strijbos counted 500 breeding pairs. Half a century later, in 1969, only 19 nests were still in use. The decline was caused by changed agricultural methods. Fields were enlarged, ground water levels were seriously lowered by increased use, and insecticides and pesticides did the rest. Growing cities and more dangers on migration routes also contributed to the rapid decline of storks in the Netherlands. That is why in 1969 a reintroduction project was started by the Dutch bird protection society Vogelbescherming Nederland. The stork village Het Liesveld was set up, with storks breeding in captivity. The young were later brought to the outstations, the current working stations, all over the country. The outstations were set up between 1979 and 1989 in areas where storks had traditionally had their home. The young born at the outstations were not kept in captivity but were permitted to migrate in autumn and spring according to the natural pattern. Returning birds settled around the outstations where they had been born.
Between 1995 and 2008, the number of nests in use increased strongly, and at present the stork is back as a breeding bird in the Netherlands.