Friday, June 26, 2009

An Empaled Stork Solves Mystery...

This is the Pfeilstorch or the Arrow-Stork which can be found, stuffed, in the Zoological Collection of the University of Rostock.
The Arrow-Stork was discovered in northern Germany, alive and fairly well, in 1822.
The only problem was that it had an 80 cm long spear stuck in its neck.
A spear whose origin was Central Africa.
The discovery of the Arrow-Stork solved the mystery of where birds go each fall. Prior to finding the bird (who had somehow survived the entire migration in an impaled state) birdwatchers speculated that birds turned into mice or hibernated each winter - perhaps at the bottom of the sea.
This Pfeilstorche and the 25 other recorded pfeilstorches were the first proof that birds migrate long distances and don't nap away the winter months.
Thanks to Paul for sending us some Friday cool stuff.
Happy weekend!

3 comments:

dAwN said...

Yikes..poor thing..
I thought all birds went underground for the winter...LOL

Jochen said...

In Germany, it was common belief (a long time ago) that swallows would spend the winter underwater in the mud of shallow lakes.
People each fall watched huge gatherings of swallows over the reeds of lakes and marshes in the evening where they would roost, and often found them gone in the morning. The first swallows each spring were also often found hunting/flying over wetlands.
So "obviously" they had emerged underwater in the fall to spend the winter burried in the mud like frogs.
As easy as that.

This myth was dispelled by someone (can't remember his name) who tied little woolen bands to the swallows' legs in the fall. When the swallows returned to their nests the next spring, he checked and the bands were still there and intact. He concluded that the birds can't have spent the winter underwater as the woolen bands would then have been dissolved.
Pretty clever approach.

The discovery of an African spear in a stork breeding in Germany must have been amazing back then, much more so than today. Back in the early 1800s, people would very rarely travel further than 100 or so miles from their birth place in all their lives. To realize that the common and familiar birds breeding on the roof of their farm would easily travel to another CONTINENT and back each year must have been a shock clearly beyond their comprehension.

Thank you for this interesting blogpost and the use of the German term "Pfeilstorch". I really appreciate this.
A small detail you might find interesting about the German word Storch:
Stork in German is "Storch",
storks is "Störche". If your keyboard doesn't have an "ö" you can '"officially" write "Stoerche".

Cheers and happy birding trails,
Jochen (from Germany)

Jochen said...

In Germany, it was common belief (a long time ago) that swallows would spend the winter underwater in the mud of shallow lakes.
People each fall watched huge gatherings of swallows over the reeds of lakes and marshes in the evening where they would roost, and often found them gone in the morning. The first swallows each spring were also often found hunting/flying over wetlands.
So "obviously" they had emerged underwater in the fall to spend the winter burried in the mud like frogs.
As easy as that.

This myth was dispelled by someone (can't remember his name) who tied little woolen bands to the swallows' legs in the fall. When the swallows returned to their nests the next spring, he checked and the bands were still there and intact. He concluded that the birds can't have spent the winter underwater as the woolen bands would then have been dissolved.
Pretty clever approach.

The discovery of an African spear in a stork breeding in Germany must have been amazing back then, much more so than today. Back in the early 1800s, people would very rarely travel further than 100 or so miles from their birth place in all their lives. To realize that the common and familiar birds breeding on the roof of their farm would easily travel to another CONTINENT and back each year must have been a shock clearly beyond their comprehension.

Thank you for this interesting blogpost and the use of the German term "Pfeilstorch". I really appreciate this.
A small detail you might find interesting about the German word Storch:
Stork in German is "Storch",
storks is "Störche". If your keyboard doesn't have an "ö" you can '"officially" write "Stoerche".

Cheers and happy birding trails,
Jochen (from Germany)