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Record number of storks spotted in Belgium

17:14 13/08/2019
Nearly 400 storks in one place? It happened yesterday in Maaseik, where the migrating birds touched down to avoid an oncoming storm

Birdwatchers were in for a surprise yesterday evening, when a record number of 383 storks were spotted in Maaseik in the northeast of Limburg province. That’s by far the largest group of storks ever observed in Belgium, the previous record being 280.

The storks were on their way from the Netherlands to northern Africa, where they spend the winter. “They landed in Maaseik because dusk was setting in, and rain was coming,” Jelle Van den Berghe, nature management expert at PXL University College in Hasselt, told VRT.

The birdwatchers that gathered to see the spectacle noticed that some of the storks bore ring around their legs. Such bands are attached to storks by scientists to monitor the population.

The identification information on the rings confirmed that the birds were born in the Netherlands. Storks head south with their young ones to the warmer African climate every winter.

A comeback

Over the last decade, ornithologists have seen a comeback in the stork population in the area, following a difficult period for the species. Aside from hunting, the use of pesticides such as DDT in the 1970s and ’80s was a serious problem.

While the pesticides didn’t affect the storks directly, concentrations built up in their prey, like frogs and beetles. The storks ingested the poison when they fed.

“But the most harmful pesticides as well as hunting have both been banned for some time now,” says Van den Berghe. “Helped by a number of measures, like the installing of stork poles on which they can build their nests, the stork population is on the mend.”

Photo courtesy TV Limburg


Written by Andy Furniere


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