Stage 7: Troyes > Nuits-saint-Georges
Spotlight on the black stork
At the mid-point, the race's course runs along the Massifs forestiers Natura 2000 site and the valleys of Châtillonnais (FR2612003) in the north of the Côte-d'Or department. The forests, interspersed with clearings and marshes, cover vast limestone plateaus carved with narrow and deep valleys.
The whole area forms a remarkable landscape, which offers a wide variety of natural habitats favourable to many species of nesting, wintering or migratory birds. The site's forest area shelters some of France’s and the region’s rare forest species: the grey-faced woodpecker, the booted eagle, the boreal owl… and the black stork.
Characteristics and lifestyle
The black stork is slightly smaller than the white stork and is almost its opposite! The adult is recognisable by its black mantle, which has finely iridescent reflections of green and purple. Only the underside of the tail, belly and armpits are white. Its legs are bright red and its beak and round the eyes are carmine red. There is no sexual dimorphism. With a wingspan of 150 cm, it is a respectable-sized wader.
Its diet essentially consists of fish that it catches in shallow water. This species also eats insects (locusts) and amphibians, and more rarely, eats mammals, reptiles, crustaceans and young birds.
In the summer, it lives mainly in large quiet forest massifs strewn with streams, ponds, marshes or wet meadows. Despite its large size, its secrecy makes it difficult to observe and it is not uncommon for specialists who are looking for nests to not find them!
As winter conditions do not allow this species to find enough food in our latitudes, they leave the nesting areas in the autumn to head for West Africa (Mauritania in particular). Even that year’s young, who do not breed in the first year, make this great journey and return to the nesting areas the following spring.
State of conservation and conservation measures
The black stork, which had almost disappeared as a breeding species in Western Europe, made a comeback a few decades ago. As a bird that prefers mainly forest areas for nesting, it has fallen victim to the massive destruction and decline of forests.
Now protected, it is gradually recolonising western Europe. In 2015, its total population was estimated to be between 40 and 70 breeding pairs, including 3 to 6 pairs on the site (about 60,000 ha) and its surroundings.
Black stork conservation requires forest massifs to nest, as well as good quality small streams (an area with trout and white-throated dippers) and valley bottom meadows for its food.
The actions undertaken in France to conserve the species are concentrated on safeguarding the prairies this species frequents and maintaining good water quality, in addition to ensuring that known nests are not disturbed!
Beyond mainland France, the preservation of the black stork also depends on the living conditions it encounters on its migratory route and in the places it stays during the winter period.
Sources: INPN, http://www.cigogne-noire.fr, Science & Nature Hors série no. 12