February 25, 2024

Climate affects bird migration – Migratory birds get stuck in Graubünden: take a taxi south – News


The northern bald ibis has returned to Switzerland. But now there are problems on the journey south.

Considered critically endangered, the northern ibis is approximately the size of a goose and is particularly noticeable because of its bare head, long red beak, and black-green feathers. There have been no northern bald ibises living in Switzerland for centuries, but now they are back.

Recently, a group of Northern Bald Ibis wandered near Dumat/Ems in the Chur district of canton Graubünden. The migratory birds come from an Austrian project that wants to reintroduce the animals to Europe. The birds have already returned to their homes again in Germany and Austria. The northern bald ibis also feels most comfortable in Switzerland.


A northern bald ibis got stuck in the Schur-Rhine valley and was unable to cross the Alps in time.

SRF/Mark Melcher

The Northern Bald Ibis, which breeds in the Lake Constance area, was actually supposed to overwinter in Italy. But the birds got stuck on the way south in the Shore-Rhine valley; They did not make the trip over the Alps. The same thing happened a year ago.

It was too late for the heat

“This is a phenomenon that we have been observing for several years. Conditions are good due to global warming, which is why the northern ibises are trying to cross the Alps so late. Unfortunately, they are no longer “They can do it well because there are no temperatures.”

The idea is to train the northern ibis on the migratory route to Andalusia.

Basically, the northern bald ibis cannot survive the winter if it stays on the north side of the Alps. That is why they have to take the necessary measures, says Johannes Fritz: “We catch the birds using automatic feeders and trapping devices. Then we take them over the Alps. Then they immediately fly from the southern edge.” They were arrested in Graubünden last Saturday.

Airplanes are used

But this is not a permanent solution. The current approach of the Reintroduction Project is to model migration behavior and trajectory. And this is not easy: “The idea is to redirect the northern ibises and train them on a migratory route to Andalusia. This is how they fly around the Alps and the Pyrenees as well.

Training is carried out using small aircraft. Young birds should be trained to follow aircraft. “In principle, it works, but it takes years. I’m confident we can do it,” says Johannes Fritz. In the future, the northern bald ibis should not remain stranded in the Rhine-Schore valley. And if so, neither There is still a taxi ride to Italy at the moment.

Northern Bald Ibis Reintroduction Project

Open the box
Close the box

Biologist Johannes Fritz founded the Northern Bald Ibis Team in 2002. There was the first “LIFE” project from 2014 to 2019, when a migratory population of northern ibises was reintroduced to the Alps. Today about 250 animals live in Germany and Austria again. This summer, a northern bald ibis was proven to have bred in Switzerland for the first time – on a window sill in Rumlang (ZH).

The effects of climate change are a setback when it comes to the positive future of the northern bald ibis in Switzerland, says biologist and project leader Johannes Fritz. The fact that birds were breeding on Romlang’s windowsill was strange, but so far it had been successful. “We assume that the breeding pair will return next year,” says Fritz. It is now up to the project and our Swiss colleagues to create the appropriate framework conditions so that an independent colony can be formed in this country.

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