Very few storks fledged in 2013 - If any

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© Valter Jacinto
A terrible year for breeding white storks in the Czech Republic.
White storks suffered their worst breeding year on record in the Czech Republic, as the cold weather put paid to nearly a whole generation. Almost all of the chicks that did hatch didn't survive the severe weather which prevailed in Bohemia just as the birds were nesting.

Czech conservationists monitor the population of white storks at 285 sites across 25 districts of the Czech Republic annually. In 15 of the monitored districts there were 80 percent fewer chicks than last year and in 10 districts no chicks survived at all! To make matters even worse, it is very unlikely that the few chicks that have survived this far are unlikely to fledge successfully. The final assessment of this calamitous situation with nesting will be carried out in the autumn.

These findings are part of the annual study, undertaken by the Czech Union for Nature Conservation on mapping and protection of white storks. The study covers a wide range of aspects, including ringing, mapping, diet, and their response to climate and human influences.

Interesting discoveries.

The study found that adult storks will protect their chicks by spreading their wings to protect them from strong sun or heavy rain; interestingly, although storks are considered strict carnivores, some vegetation was found in the stomachs of some of the dead chicks, according to Stanislav Chvapil, senior program supervisor.

Equally important is the fact that the storks preferred nesting spots, such as chimneys, roofs, towers and tall trees, are all gradually declining. In some places, where the natural nests were destroyed, artificial nesting platforms have been erected.

Monitoring nesting and care of the nests of white storks are some of the more than two hundred projects supported under the National Programme ČSOP biodiversity conservation.