30 Jan 2024, 13:46
Franca Quecke

Climate change allows migrating birds' early return from winter refuge to Germany - biologist

The first cranes are returning to Germany already in January 2024 from their wintering grounds further south as they migrate to north-eastern Europe to breed, reports the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The migratory birds’ atypical behaviour is clearly a consequence of climate change, said biologist Stefan Stübing from the Hessian Society for Ornithology and Nature Conservation e.V. "Twenty years ago, when we still had normal winters, that would have been unthinkable."

Migratory birds spend the winter in places far away from their summer breeding grounds. According to Stübing, however, the cranes no longer migrate very far during winter, but instead prefer closer areas, for example in eastern France. The populations then return as quickly as possible to secure the best breeding sites, usually on the Baltic Sea coast and the neighboring inland areas. White storks exhibit similar behaviour, Stübing said. Although young birds are still making the long journey to southern Spain or northern Africa, experienced individuals are increasingly wintering close to their breeding grounds in central Germany. Increasingly milder winters or more frequent heavy rainfalls as a result of climate change can lead to altered food supplies and shrunken habitats, affecting the length of a bird’s populations stay in breeding and wintering sites.

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