The Franconian Forest is a quiet low mountain range in the border region between Upper Franconia and Thuringia. The State Association for the Protection of Birds (LBV) has now renewed the demand to designate the approximately 100,000-hectare region as a European bird sanctuary. The reason: There are more black storks in the Franconian Forest than in almost any other area in Germany. According to the LBV, almost ten percent of the nationwide stock is located here. “That’s why we have a great responsibility for the species,” says LBV man Andreas von Lindeiner.
The strictly protected black stork (Ciconia nigra) is much more shy than the white stork (Ciconia ciconia), which often builds its nests in close proximity to people on church towers or abandoned chimneys. Externally, both species are very similar, with one difference: the black stork’s plumage is predominantly black with a greenish-violet metallic sheen. Black storks live secluded in extensive forests and fly to their wintering grounds in Africa about a month later than white storks.
According to ten-year-old censuses, the population in the Franconian Forest is more than 70 breeding pairs. This year, ornithologists have documented a dozen occupied nests, nine of which have secured brood. “In addition, a number of black storks with territorial behavior were observed,” says Lindeiner. “That’s why we can conclude that there are significantly more breeding sites.” Black storks need nest trees in large, undivided forests as well as natural streams or intact wetlands for successful breeding. Disturbances such as forest work or wind turbines quickly lead to them giving up the eyries.
The LBV wants to protect the Franconian Forest from such interventions as far as possible, hence the demand for the bird sanctuary. Most of the region is nature park. When the state government wanted to set up a third national park in Bavaria five years ago under the then Prime Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU), the Franconian Forest was also a short choice. The bark beetle is currently threatening the extensive spruce forests.