Living in Harmony with Wildlife – Algarve Storks

Algarve storks

The Portuguese Revere their Storks

We can learn a lot about living in harmony with wildlife from the residents of the Algarve in Portugal. They seem to absolutely revere the Stork and it is both a wonderful spectacle and a pleasure to see how the Portuguese seem to embrace the thousands of storks arriving from their migration. Each year they take up residence in their personal nests just like the hordes of human tourists. They make their huge nests in the villages, towns and cities wherever they please and return each year to the same one. They are oblivious to the noise of traffic and human activity and the residents reciprocate by appearing unmindful of them.

Algarve Storks

They are totally protected in Portugal and it is illegal to kill them, disturb them or destroy their nests, and as they always return to the same nest each year they have a right of tenure for as long as they wish so this is why you will see many abandoned brick chimneys, pylons, tree trunks and buildings with nests perched on top.

They are not fussed about residing in the centre of towns and will choose mobile masts, church clocktowers, apartment blocks, residential houses and factories to set up home. From their vantage points they will peer down at you while tourists peer up at them and take photographs and locals just pass on by as they are part of daily life there.

Storks have no vocal chords and are therefore mute, but you will not have difficulty in locating them as instead of uttering bird song they produce a sound like someone tapping hollow pieces of wood together by throwing their heads back and clicking their huge beaks.

Algarve Storks

What a pleasure though to see animals being treated with so much respect in this way, a far cry from the UK where any animal or bird, protected or not, is killed legally under licence in the name of progress.

Although Portugal is a relatively safe haven for them, and they are supposedly protected worldwide, hundreds if not thousands never make it back each year because they are flagrantly shot and killed in countries like Malta and the Lebanon as they migrate across the Sahara through the near east to southern Europe. They do not fly over the Mediterranean sea because there are no suitable air currents so they divert and funnel into flocks of thousands over countries to the east and Gibraltar in the west. They were once shot purely for subsistence food, but now it is a highly organised and  popular sport and causes the demise of so many of these beautiful and endearing birds.

The Algarve town of Silves is a kind of spa hill resort for them and storks almost outnumber the human residents. On a recent visit I could not help myself from stopping at almost every street corner to stare up and watch them. Even sitting at a pavement café we had a pair clacking away above us. If you ever decide to visit the Algarve in the spring and summer it is worth taking some time out from the sun and sea and spend a little time in the company of the Storks. You do not even have to forgo the Sangria  as there is probably a bar nearby with a nest above it where you can reflect on what these birds have gone through to reach safety.

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Author: John Brookland

John Brookland has been passionate about animals from an early age and has always been more concerned about their individual health and well-being than any scientific or zoological interest. During his long and varied career in animal welfare in the U.K. and worldwide, he has unfortunately witnessed most of the horrors of animal cruelty there is to see and has gained extensive insight into animal welfare issues. On leaving school he trained as an RSPCA clinic assistant in London and later was manager of one of their veterinary hospitals and an animal centre. He was Chief Inspector and manager of the Bahamas Humane Society in Nassau and spent time in Trinidad advising on a humane stray dog control service, before becoming a deputy manager and animal health inspector at Heathrow's Animal Quarantine Centre. He then travelled the world for a conservation group investigating the capture and transport of wildlife for the pet trade and was an honorary consultant to the IUCN and CITES. He is now retired and still travelling the world with his partner to view wildlife and wild places and writing a blog and books on animals.