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EURING Newsletter, Volume 3, July 2001

The historical distribution of bird ringing in Europe has produced recovery data which date back nearly one century in some countries. This material offers a unique opportunity to monitor changes in migratory patterns and bird-man interactions. However, old recovery data can be not easy to access to, or to use, and often need a significant effort in checking and coding. An example of the very interesting results in the analyses of historical recoveries is offered here by the case of the German-ringed White Storks, reported by Alexandra Sproll and Wolfgang Fiedler.

DIGGING IN OLD DATA: MIGRATION AND CAUSES OF DEATH
IN WHITE STORKS (CICONIA CICONIA) ACCORDING TO
RINGING RECOVERY DATA OF THE VOGELWARTE ROSSITTEN
(EASTERN PRUSSIA) BEFORE THE SECOND WORLD WAR

by Alexandra Sproll and Wolfgang Fiedler

RESEARCH CENTRE FOR ORNITHOLOGY OF THE
MAX PLANCK SOCIETY ANDECHS UND RADOLFZELL
VOGELWARTE RADOLFZELL, BIRD RINGING CENTRE
SCHLOSSALLEE 2, D-78315 RADOLFZELL, GERMANY
E-mail: ring@orn.mpg.de

Although we have many hints about extended changes in migration and other environment-related behaviour of birds during the last years or decades on one hand and are on the other hand able to look back at a whole century of scientific bird ringing, comparisons over the whole period are seldom done. Old data is often stored on paper only, not coded and difficult to access with justifyable effort. Moreover, parts of the older data was teared apart or partly lost during war confusion.

Within the framework of the Joint Vogelwarte Radolfzell - EURING Migration Project it seemed especially valuable to make the Rossitten data of early White Stork ringing available. This has been done recently in a diploma thesis at Vogelwarte Radolfzell of which some results shall be shown here. The data is now inserted into the European White Stork recovery database and large scale analysis has already started.

Methods

Johannes Thienemann, the founder of the Vogelwarte Rossitten, started ringing of the White Stork in 1906. Within the shortest time several thousands of mainly juvenile White Storks were ringed thanks to the help of many ringers. Only a few years later (1908) the first long distance recovery was reported. With the White Stork Thienemann had found the "predestined target species" that made bird ringing internationally known.

Until the Second World War members of the Vogelwarte Rossitten marked about 100,000 White Storks with rings in different parts of Europe. These are the only extensive data that show the whereabouts of individually marked White Storks in this time except of a few previous or parallel ringings, mainly in Denmark, Northern Germany and Poland.

About 3000 index-cards with data of ringing and recovery had to be analyzed. The cards were originals or they were reconstructed out of publications and manuscripts after World War II. These data are of birds ringed in the years 1908-1949. The geographical coordinates of the ringing and recovery localities (often given as old and meanwhile hardly known place names) were determined and the standard Euring-Code was encoded. An additional result of this work is a file containing 2700 old names of places in Eastern Prussia and in Colonial-Africa. This file is now available for future analysis of further Rossitten recoveries.

Migration

The analysis includes the Eastern and Western migrating White Stork populations (Fig. 1). Half of the storks recovered are ringed in Eastern Prussia (Fig. 2). The analysis of the time of the recoveries from the autumn migration indicates also that the birds reach the Sudan in September and Eastern or South African wintering areas in November (Fig. 3). Wintering storks were observed in Europe even at the beginning of the century (Fig. 4), but most of them were ill or in a poor condition.

Causes of death

The following causes of recovery were reported, classified by frequency:

ring read from the living stork

27%

bird found with ring (without details) 25%
electrocuted, collision with wires 14%
"found" (without details) 6%
"shot" (without details) 6%
found hurt 5%
hunted (without details) 4%
trapped through poor condition 3%
starvation / thirst 2%
victim of fighting with conspecific rival 1%
ring found (without details) 1%
other causes 6%

Comparing the causes of recovery from the time of Rossitten with today we must consider that the breeding and ringing areas do not correspond. Nevertheless some meaningfull figure can be derived (Fig. 5). Fig. 6 illustrates the distribution of the causes of recovery within Europe, along the migration flyways and at the wintering grounds.

Fig. 1: All recoveries of White Storks ringed with Vogelwarte Rossitten rings 1908-1954 (n=2043). White dots: manipulated birds (transported or tame), grey dots: all others.

Map

Fig. 2: Recoveries of birds from Eastern Prussia (n=1103). Grey dots: recovery of storks ringed as nestlings, white dots: ringing age not available.

Map

Fig. 3: Recoveries within the first autumn migration south of 40 latitude. Only recoveries with reported dates exact to the month are included (n=10).

Map

Fig. 4: Winter recoveries in Europe (1908-1950; n=33).

Map

Fig. 5: Causes of recovery of ringed White Storks reported as dead at the beginning and the end of the 20th century.

Pie charts

Fig. 6: Distribution of the causes of recovery without "unknown" code (1908 - 1954; n= 1922).

Map

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