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Sat-tracked White Stork found dead in fishing lines near Tangier, Morocco

A satellite-tracked White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) found dead near Asilah, Tangier region, northern Morocco. The good news is that the satellite transmitter was found in good condition. This is the story of how the White Stork ‘C666’ died and how its transmitter was found.

On 26 November 2013, Brigitta Keeves from the office of Prof. Dr. Martin Wikelski at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Ornithology contacted us at the Moroccan Birds blog in order to help finding a White Stork equipped with a satellite transmitter. The stork did not move from its location south of Asilah (35.427, -6.039) since 5 November 2013.

On 10 December, we went to find out what happened to the stork and try to retrieve the transmitter. When we reached the site of transmitter location, we met a local shepherd who showed us a carcass of a White Stork. However, we have found neither the transmitter nor the rings on the bird’s carcass. So, we assumed that this must not be the stork we are searching. We continued our search in the fields around the site for about 40 min, where we found another much older white stork carcass. We also found many feathers below the cypress trees.

A local villager already found the bird

At about 12:00, a man called Ahmed el-Ketami approached and asked us what we were doing. We told him the whole story of searching a white stork with a satellite transmitter on its back. He immediately told us that the stork had “3 things not just one”, he means the satellite transmitter and 2 rings (plastic and metal). He told us that when he first found the transmitter, he didn’t know much about it. But when he showed the transmitter and the rings to some people in a local café, someone told him that this device is “used by ornithologists to follow the movements of the birds over long distances”. Ahmed then decided to keep the transmitter and the rings in a safe place in his house. He also told us what happened to this stork and other storks before.

Hundreds of White Storks gather along with other birds at a nearby rubbish dump to feed. During the night many storks roost in the cypress trees not far from the dump. Some storks get entangled in strings and lines of different kind in the rubbish dump. When they move to roost in the trees, they get stuck by these strings in tree branches and die” said Ahmed. The White Stork ‘C666’ most likely got entangled in fishing lines (which were dumped at the rubbish dump).

Some lucky storks can be saved (even when they are already stuck in trees) if noticed by the local people early enough. Ahmed told us that he has saved a stork that got stuck in trees recently, but he has found others dead in/or below trees like this one (we also found another white stork carcass probably from last year).

For now, we know that the bird was tagged by the White Stork team of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology but we don’t know where. The metal ring contains the following information: F08049, Aranzadi, San Sebastian. So, maybe it was tracked from the Basque Country, north-west Spain rather than from Germany.

We will update this when we receive more information about the stork.

Many thanks to Ahmed El Ketami for his help and the information.

Update: The bird was sat-tagged in Spain

The White Stork ‘C666’ was satellite-tagged as a nestling in June 2013 in the Doñana National Park, Andalusia, southern Spain. It was tagged by the German ornithologists in collaboration with researchers from the University of Seville. In 2013, the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology tagged around 120 juvenile White Storks in different countries in order to understand more about the migration and survival of juvenile storks from different populations.

During its short lifetime, the White Stork ‘C666’ crossed the borders of 6 countries: from Spain through Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania, Mali and Niger where it spent the ‘winter’, and back again to northern Morocco where it died in early November 2013 (see its movements in the map at the end). It survived the desert crossing twice to die in a rubbish dump not far from where she was born.

The satellite transmitter found in good condition
The carcass of the White Stork with the satellite transmitter
The carcass of the White Stork with the tree where it died
Partial view of the Cypress trees which function as roosting site for White Storks, where the bird died.
Partial view of about 300 White Storks at the rubbish dump (900 meters from the roosting site)
Another view of White Storks at the rubbish dump
From left to right: Mohamed Amezian, Ahmed El Ketami (who saved the transmitter) & Rachid El Khamlichi
White Stork ‘C666’ crossed 6 countries during its short lifetime between June and early November 2013 (Map of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology).

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