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Stork migration stops in Salzburg

A natural spectacle that is repeated almost every year on the large meadows in Salzburg, near the airport - "the stork migration".

It starts sometime in the month of August in the north of Europe. As soon as the young storks have fledged, they soon separate from their parents.

Shortly afterwards, the parents also leave the eyrie and head south, usually separated from the young birds.

Their destination is the southern Sahara, where the storks will spend the winter.

It is not the winter cold that makes the migration south necessary every year. Rather, it is the scarcity of food in our regions during the winter season.

At some point on their long journey, they make stopovers on their route and one of them is often in Salzburg. They enjoy the residual warmth of late summer and the food on the still lush meadows.

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The journey to Africa demands everything from the birds. Depending on the route, 5000 to 10000 kilometres have to be covered. This is only possible by using the upwinds over land.

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Such thermals are created by the sun, which heats up the ground and the air begins to rise.

Similar to gliders, storks make use of these thermals and thus soar to great heights, saving energy, and glide from there to the next thermal spot, from where they soar again. In doing so, they save a lot of energy and strength for their long journey.

The long journeys across the seas are avoided for precisely this reason. It would take too much strength and energy from them.

I was able to observe and photograph several larger groups of up to 50 birds in Salzburg over the last few days, some of them on meadows in the middle of houses. There still seems to be plenty of food in our green spaces. A stopover like this pays off for the storks to gather strength and energy for the onward flight.

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Especially after a "mowing" there is always a lot of activity here, as the insects and mice become visible to the storks.

How long the storks will stay here probably depends on the food supply and the weather, but soon they will continue their journey south.

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This picture shows the routes of the stork migration. The main route is a west route and an east route, which are marked thickly here. All the secondary routes and feeder routes to the main routes are thinly marked here.

The route over Sicily is used very little because the danger of flying over the open sea is far too great. If the stork runs out of strength here, it is doomed to drown or starve to death.


More than 70% use the eastern route and sometimes fly as far as South Africa, where up to 10,000 km have to be covered.

With a few stops in between, the birds are on the move for 2-4 months or more, covering a daily distance of up to 300km.

The declared destination is the countries under the Sahara, where there is enough food during the winter months.

Some storks also like to spend the winter in southern Spain, where many feed at rubbish dumps.

As a stork, I would prefer the long route to Africa 😉 - I would prefer fresh, tasty food to rubbish.

I sometimes sat in the middle of the storks and they came up to 10m away from me. It's all a question of how calm you are - hectic is out of place here. I was on my way without camouflage. Here are a few more shots of the beautiful birds.

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These storks from Salzburg will probably take the western route towards Spain and then on to Africa, with several stops in between.

Whether their final destination is Africa or the rubbish dumps of Spain, only the stork itself knows.

The way back to the breeding grounds for next year is in any case much shorter from Spain and the birds arrive there in a much fresher condition to be prepared for raising young birds.

Many long-distance migrants do not survive the hardships to Africa, fall victim to hunting or other dangers of our civilisation like power lines, wind turbines etc.

So it's clear that staying in Spain also has its advantages 😉 I'm looking forward to next year.

It was a wonderful experience to squat or lie on the ground among the storks, completely without camouflage and yet they didn't take much notice of me.

It was not only the photography that had priority for me. It was the wonderful, cautious approach to wild animals that normally have a very high flight distance.

I am already looking forward to next year and hope that the storks survive the marathon to their winter home and back as well as possible

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