White Storks

Nature Conservation Egypt (NCE) is an Egyptian NGO working to conserve Egypt’s wildlife and natural habitats through research, policy, capacity building, as well as awareness raising. As part of NCE’s awareness raising activities, we are shedding light on the white stork as September’s bird of the month.

 

The white stork holds a special place in European folklore as it is seen as being responsible for bringing babies to new parents. This is based on a very old legend and became popularised by the Hans Christian Andersen story, The Stork. This beautiful white bird with black wings and a red beak is commonly depicted carrying a baby in basket, taking it to the homes of new parents; a story that was commonly shared with children as a response to the question, “where do babies come from?”

The white stork is also an emblem of global interconnectedness. It is a migratory bird that breeds and lays its eggs in Europe during spring, and spends its winters all across Africa. Every year, the white stork will embark on a gruelling journey from Europe to Africa and back, gracing numerous countries with its presence twice a year, reminding citizens of the world that nature knows no borders.

Many do not know that Egypt is one of the most important destinations for these migratory soaring birds, with almost half of the world’s white storks passing through every year during the autumn and spring migrations. Egypt is a strategic transit spot for the storks as it connects the landmasses of Africa and Eurasia. Storks fall under the family of migratory soaring birds, meaning they can soar for thousands of kilometres using the warm air currents created by the sun heating the ground. This allows them to embark on a long and difficult cross-continental journey whilst barely flapping a wing, an important technique of flight used by many large birds to save energy.

After spending the later months of spring breeding across Europe, the white stork departs for Africa starting in August, in hope of finding a warmer climate and more food during the cold months of winter. While Western European storks will fly down through Morocco, most of the white storks in central and Eastern Europe will fly down through Egypt, leaving us with a spectacular site of hundreds of thousands of white storks migrating through Egypt’s skies and resting on its grounds.

By the end of August, hundreds of thousands of white storks will congregate and rest in South Sinai, specifically Sharm El Sheikh and Ras Mohammad National Park, a beautiful and comfortable “rest house” for these birds before they continue their paths further south. The storks then make their main crossing from Asia to Africa by flying over the narrowest body of water that separates South Sinai from Egypt’s eastern Red Sea coast, most notably Ras Gharib and Gabal El Zeit, just north of Hurghada. After flying further south along the Red Sea coast, the storks fly westwards, crossing Egypt’s Eastern Desert to reach the Upper Nile Valley. Starting near the Upper Egyptian province of Qena, the storks fly southwards, passing through Luxor, Aswan, and Lake Nasser, till they depart Egypt and continue to their wintering grounds starting in Kenya and Uganda, all the way to South Africa.

After a winter wellspent feeding and resting, spring comes and the storks depart once again for Europe, embarking on the same gruelling journey back to their northern breeding grounds. This time, most of the storks passing through Egypt will continue northwards after reaching the Red Sea coast, flying over Ain El Sokhna and the Gulf of Suez before crossing into Sinai before continuing for central and Eastern Europe, where they are to spend the rest of spring and early summer feeding, breeding, and caring for their new hatchlings.

White storks, as well as many other migratory soaring birds, face a variety of threats along their migration route which we call the Red Sea/Rift Valley Flyway. Egypt is at the heart of this crucial migratory route, which is why NCE is working alongside the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) on the Birdlife International/GEF-UNDP Migratory Soaring Birds Project, aiming to promote bird-friendly policies in the sectors of hunting, energy, waste management, agriculture, and tourism. This is to reduce the threats faced by birds as they migrate through Egypt, and promote the conservation of Egypt’s natural heritage, as well as help local communities benefit from nature conservation by promoting ecotourism opportunities.

In the upcoming editions, NCE will announce birdwatching opportunities across Egypt, in celebration of autumn and winter seasons. Stay tuned!

 


Noor A. Noor is the Executive Coordinator for the Nature Conservation Egypt.
Nature Conservation Egypt (NCE) is a registered NGO working for the protection of Egypt’s natural heritage, through scientific research, education, and advocacy. For more of NCE’s updates, please follow Nature Conservation Egypt (NCE) on Facebook.
Facebook Group: http://on.fb.me/POOcgt
Twitter Account: @Nature_Egypt
Photo credits: I. Manfred Heyde, Watter Al-Bahry

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