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Aves, 40/1-4 | 2003 | 172-174

  Wintering of West-European Black Storks (Ciconia nigra) in West Africa: results of satellite monitoring campaings carried out between 1995 and 2000 by the “Cigognes sans Frontières” program and University of Liege.
Hourlay, F.

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Until few years ago, most Black Storks studies were conducted in their Palearctic breeding area. Therefore, little was known about the habits of this bird during winter in Africa. Satellite monitoring campaigns organized between 1995 and 2000 by asbl SOLON, the “Cigognes sans Frontières” program and University of Liège (ULg), as well as several trips to West-European Black Storks in their wintering areas; theirs social behaviour, movements, differences between youngs and adults, site fidelity... Out of 26 subjects followed between 1995 and 2000, data on wintering are available for 14 of them, including 5 complete ones. This study allowed us to locate accurately different areas frequented by equipped storks. They occupy a vast wintering area in West Africa, extending widely in longitude: their mean positions are included between latitude 10° and 16° north and longitude 13° west and 1° east. This is a sub-Sahelian region whose climate main feature is the succession of a dry season and a rainy season. Black Storks arrive at the beginning of the dry season in October and leave before the rainy season in February-March. Wintering Black Storks are mainly concentred on two areas that correspond to the two main migration flyways followed by West-European Black Storks flying above the African continent. A detailed analysis of those wintering regions shwos that more than 70% of areas frequented by our monitored storks are national parks and game reserves. Black Storks often settle down near great rivers. When wintering in West Africa, Black Storks adopt an erratic behaviour. They frequent a huge living space, which includes several locations successively occupied for various times, from one day to three months. Storks generally move between one and three times during wintering. The size of the living space can vary from one bird to another but is, in general, quite the same as the one used in Europe before their departure. Those living spaces can overlap partially or be distinct. The main cause of this erratic behaviour is probably a progressive drying of ponds and rivers during the dry season., that force storks to move towards areas where food can still be found. Several locations reported on maps show this dependence with rivers and wetlands in wintering areas: they stay close to water and, as soon as the dry season appears, they come closer to the main course of the rivers. In Africa, young storks are more erratic than adults. This can be seen as tendency to explore and discover new regions and their surroundings. We also observed, for a stork monitored in 1996 and 1998, a certain degree of fidelity in areas used for wintering or long stopover.

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