Walking into the “European White Stork Village” – Luchtstedt, Germany

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The white stork is a migratory bird. It lives and breeds in warm Europe in spring and summer, and migrates to tropical areas in autumn and winter to avoid severe cold. Every year on the last Saturday of July, a grand “White Stork Festival” will be held in the village of Lukhstadt, located in Plynitz, Brandenburg, Germany, near the Elbe River, to welcome tourists from all over the world to see the white stork before it moves south. The author also took this opportunity to visit this German village, which is known as “European White Stork Village”.
Every house has a white stork nest on the roof
Lukhstadt Village is a small village with only 600 residents. From Berlin, you need to take the train first and then transfer to the bus. The nearest railway station is also 10 kilometers away from the village. The bus needs to be booked in advance at the weekend. It is also because of the inconvenient traffic that there are no tourists in the village at ordinary times, so the white stork can recuperate without being disturbed. When the car rolled into the village, the author was immediately attracted by the spectacular scene in front of him. Looking around, there were one or more white stork nests on the roof of almost every house, and white storks in pairs played or rested in the nests.
The author first went to the tourist center set up by the German Union of Nature in the village of Ruchtete. Since 1995, it has been the seat of the management department of the UNESCO “Elbe Landscape – Brandenburg” Biosphere Reserve. A small exhibition is set up in the tourist center, where you can visit various stork specimens including the white stork, understand the living habits and migration path of the European white stork through the display board and interactive device, and a children’s book corner that collects various white stork stories. During the “White Stork Festival”, the village sent out a car with a ladder, which can rise to a high place to overlook the two white stork nests on the roof of the tourist center.
The author then participated in the white stork tour organized by the Natural Union Association and visited the white stork nest on the roof of each household in the village. The guide distributed binoculars to everyone to observe the shape of the white stork more clearly. The white stork is a large bird with a body length of more than 1 meter and a wingspan of 1.5 meters to 2 meters. Except that the front end of the wings is black, all the feathers are white. The beak and legs of the adult white stork are red, and the young bird is black. When passing through an open wetland grassland in the village, the guide said that this was the feeding ground for the white stork, which was a carnivore and its food included insects, fish, etc.
In recent years, the population of European white storks has declined, and the number of newborn white stork chicks in the village of Lukhstadt has also decreased year by year. The main reason is that people around the world have changed some marshes into farmland, and a large number of pesticides have caused environmental pollution. In addition to climate change and other factors, the living environment of white storks has been deteriorating, food has decreased, and mortality has increased.
There is a “White Stork Club” in the village
The “White Stork Club” in Lukhstadt village was established in 1990, which is committed to protecting the white stork and expanding the population of white stork, and maintaining the white stork habitat in the local and surrounding areas. The “White Stork House” in the center of the village is the headquarters and information center of the club. Tourists can visit the local wildlife specimens collected inside, learn about the story of the white stork and the whole village, and also buy postcards and souvenirs. At the top of the old water tower nearby is a large bird’s nest. The staff said that this nest is the most popular in the village, and the white stork is the first to live in it every year.
In addition to carrying out popular science education, the White Stork Club also has a lot of work to do. Before the arrival of the white stork every spring, the club should maintain and repair the bird’s nest in the village and nearby communities in advance, check whether the bird’s nest is stable, clean up the plastic, rope and other garbage in the nest, and adjust the structure of the bird’s nest if necessary. In the middle of June, when the chicks hatch for a few weeks, the White Stork Club will cooperate with the White Stork Affairs Commissioner in Plynitz to count the number of newly born white storks in the season, and use the lifting platform to approach the nest, and put the tracking shackles on the chicks. Sometimes the club also takes care of injured or abandoned young birds, arranges accommodation for them locally and helps them adapt to the wild living environment.
The author also noticed that each house with a white stork nest in the village was hung with an exquisite wooden sign on the outside wall, which drew interesting white stork patterns, and recorded the arrival and departure dates of each white stork couple living in the nest over the years, as well as the situation of raising offspring. A large wooden board under the old water tower records the number of white storks and newborn birds in the village year by year. These information boards have been set up by the White Stork Club since the 1980s. With these data, we can summarize and evaluate the development of the white stork population over the years.
The white stork reposes good wishes from the Germans
The white stork is considered as the “national bird” of Germany. As early as 1966, the German Bird Protection Association chose the white stork as its logo pattern, which has been used until now. According to the German Association of Natural Union, Brandenburg is the federal state with the largest number of white storks in Germany, and about 1400 of the 4000 pairs of white storks in Germany live here. The white storks in Brandenburg belong to “western immigrants”. They spend the winter in Iberia and North Africa, and come to Brandenburg to mate in spring. The females will lay 2 to 7 eggs, which are hatched and raised by both parents.
Lukhstadt village is the place with the highest density of white storks in Germany, with an average of 40 pairs of white storks living here every year. The village consciously protected the white stork in the 1970s, because the white stork would fight for the nesting site when it flew in every spring. The villagers spontaneously built artificial bird nests on the roof of each house with cane, branches and other materials, allowing the white stork to freely choose the location they like, and the problem of “housing difficulty” was solved. In 1996, the village of Rukhstadt won the title of “European White Stork Village”, and also joined the “White Stork Village” network in Europe. The purpose of selecting “White Stork Village” is to make these villages known internationally as special cultural and natural heritage, and to promote the exchange and discussion on the protection of white storks.
If not disturbed by human factors, the white stork has almost no fear of human beings. The Germans also call the white stork “the bird giving birth”. People believe that the white stork who falls on the roof to build a nest and settle down will have a baby. The white stork on the roof can also bring a harmonious atmosphere to the family. A more scientific explanation is that in the early years, when someone in the family is pregnant, it will take longer than other families to burn the fire for heating, so the white stork is more willing to choose the chimney mouth of this family to build a nest. It seems that the family with the white stork’s nest will give birth soon. According to German folklore, the white stork will put the baby found in the cave or marsh into a basket, give it to the mother of the child or put it in the chimney. People can place candy on the windowsill to attract the white stork. This expectation gradually evolved into a folk culture with beautiful meanings.