A firetruck and its extendable ladder helped the Zurich Zoo tag 25 newly arrived storks — many of which were born in nests at dizzying heights.
During the annual banding of the white stork offspring, the zoo used a little help from a local fire brigade and successfully tagged roughly two dozen chicks.
The number of storks tagged this year was considerably lower than in 2020, when 40 storks were tagged, and even lower than in 2018, when 44 were.
Zurich Zoo stated it believes the numbers were much higher last year because of the exceptionally warm weather. Higher temperatures increase the likelihood of young storks surviving.
When fully grown, the storks will measure between 39–45 inches from beak to tail and have wingspans of 61–85 inches.
Each stork was given a unique number that enables researchers to successfully identify and distinguish them in the future. The birds being monitored by the zoo are a wild colony; by tagging them, migration patterns can be monitored by researchers.
In the past, storks would usually migrate to Africa for the winter. However, GPS data transmitters show that about 70 percent of Swiss storks winter in Spain, with the remainder headed in the direction of Gibraltar.
Due to this change in migration patterns, their flight to Switzerland is considerably shorter and fewer birds are lost along the way.
The stork population in Switzerland has declined sharply since the second half of the 19th century, due to illegal hunting, heavy industrialization, pollution and habitat loss.
The white storks almost went extinct in Switzerland in the middle of the 20th century, but the population was saved. That’s thanks to a successful reintroduction program by the Altreu stork settlement and institutions such as the Basel Zoo and Zurich Zoo.
Today, Switzerland counts about 350 free-flying breeding pairs of storks.
(Edited by Fern Siegel and Matthew B. Hall)
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