Record number of white stork nests in Knokke-Heist

Record number of white stork nests in Knokke-Heist
Credit: Planckendael Jonas Verhulst

A record number of white stork nests have been recorded in Knokke-Heist, West Flanders. This year, 16 occupied stork nests were logged in the area – the highest number observed in over five years, according to an Instagram post by the Zwin Nature Park.

Conservationists succeeded in placing tags on 16 out of 18 of the birds in just a day. However, two of the birds were “still too small to be tagged” and will be tracked later.

Storks typically make their nests on top of poles, trees, or other elevated platforms. According to Nature Park, in order to tag the birds the conservationists reach the nests using raised platforms.

“The young storks are measured and weighed and receive an official tag on their leg. Then the taggers put them back in their nest." The park’s staff said that tagging the young is important as it allows them to learn about their development, as well as their migratory patterns.

The tags are large enough to be legible by researchers using binoculars or telescopes. Each stork receives a unique number which allows it to be easily identified.

“We have already received hundreds of sightings from at home and abroad, even as far as Algeria!,” the nature park writes.

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Zwin Nature Park is home to the oldest colony of nesting storks in Belgium. Since 2021, 221 young birds have been tagged in the area. The nature park intentionally puts out elevated poles for the storks to nest on however some also hide in the trees of the local area.

The hazards of being a stork

Storks are not endangered in Europe but according to conservation group EuroNatur, the species is increasingly suffering from habitat loss due to agricultural development and global warming.

“The drainage of wet meadows robs storks of their basic food supply,” the group notes. It is also not uncommon for the birds to fall victim to powerlines, either by electrocution or collision.

Populations of the birds recovered following the World War II and have made a comeback in some parts of France and Germany. The birds have also been reintroduced to the United Kingdom after nearly 100 years of absence.

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