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Donna Dies

World record White Stork electrocuted

Belgium ? Six years after she was satellite-tagged as a chick, Donna the White Stork has been killed by power lines. Hatched in Belgium, the much-travelled Donna had left her wintering grounds in southern Spain, and died as she reached her breeding site in the Calvados region of France.

[The White Stork Ciconia ciconia is one of the most recognisable and well-loved birds of Europe, partly due to its habit of nesting in close proximity to people on tops of buildings. It is a widespread summer visitor to much of Europe, which constitutes nearly 75% of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is large (c.180,000 pairs), but underwent a large decline between 1970?1990. Although the species experienced a moderate increase overall during 1990?2000?with stable or increasing trends across most of Europe?its population has not yet recovered to the level that preceded its decline.]Wim Van den Bossche, leader of the Storks Without Borders project, followed Donna`s progress for the 2,033 days of her life after she started her first autumn migration. Wim says Donna was the world-record holder in the young science of satellite-tracking birds. No other bird has been tracked on a daily basis for such a long period. Donna provided us with a mass of unique scientific data.

[Storks Without Borders is a project involving Natuurpunt (one of two organisations forming BirdLife in Belgium, with Natagora), Nature Centre Zwin, Animal Parc Planckendael and the Flemish Government. Since 1999, the project has tagged 23 storks and tracked their movements from Belgium to the wintering quarters in Spain/Portugal and Western Africa. Website: http://www.storks.be ]Donna left Seville in Southern Spain on the 11 February, stopped off near Madrid for ten days, and reached Calvados on the 4 March. The next day local stork specialist Alain Chartier found her dead under power lines near the estuary of the river Seine. Alain says she was in prime breeding condition.

Electrocution and collision with power lines are the main known causes of death among White Storks, Wim reports. Along migration routes, up to 59 percent of dead storks and 90 percent of wounded storks examined by researchers have hit wires. Storks can live up to 30 years.

Wim says that bird-friendly alterations to power lines can reduce stork mortality. Plastic caps and tubes can be fitted quickly and cheaply to existing pylons, poles and cables, and guidelines are available to ensure that new power lines present the minimum risk to birds.

4th July 2014