As a protected species, the Black Stork is sensitive to human disturbance, particularly in instances like forestry operations near nesting sites, as well as the risks associated with power lines, namely electrocution and collision. These threats increase during the dispersal of young storks and the pre- and post-nuptial migrations between Europe and West Africa. Despite electrocution and collision being the primary causes of Black Stork mortality in Europe, there is a scarcity of available information on this matter. It is imperative to gather data to pinpoint high-risk area of the power grid, facilitating the effective implementation of mitigation measures.
Therefore, as part of the SafeLines4Birds project, juvenile Black Storks were tagged and tracked using GPS technology in France. In June 2023, LPO France initiated this endeavor in collaboration with the French 'Black Stork Ringing Program,' spearheaded by ACETAM, and partnered with the French National Forestry Office (ONF), which oversees the forests hosting the majority of monitored nests in France. A total of 38 juveniles were equipped with GPS tags, and the initial monitoring revealed the significant impact of power lines on the species:
Two juveniles were discovered dead in the nest following the electrocution-related demise of a parent.
Four juvenile carcasses were found in Portugal and Spain, attributed to collisions with power lines.
The GPS tracking data from these tagged juvenile Black Storks, along with a comprehensive analysis of all existing GPS data, will play a crucial role in identifying high-risk areas encompassing nests and locations critical for feeding, staging, and wintering. This data integration contributes significantly to enhancing our comprehension of the species and its home ranges, while also enriching historical GPS data, ringing data, and mortality data. The outcomes of the data analysis will inform the implementation of targeted mitigation measures, such as the neutralization of hazardous poles, throughout the project.
Looking ahead, in 2024, this action will be replicated in Belgium, and a second year of monitoring will be conducted in France.