Cerignola is in the Foggia province and for a number of years it has been the theatre of a wonderful event. For about three centuries the European white stork has chosen not to nest in Italy, but it has recently returned to the country, to nest on the banks of the Ofanto river, about 14 km from Cerignola. This site has been a regular nesting point for a couple of storks since 1999.

It is not the only site in Italy where this great traveller now nests. This bird crosses the Italian skies twice a year, first on its long voyage to Africa, south of the Sahara, to spend the European winter and then, back towards northern Europe. Its northern journey is to find a place to nest and its favoured nesting sites are the chimneypots of houses – an image that is an integral part of the European cultural identity. The first recorded instances of nesting wild storks in Italy are from 1994, mainly in Piedmont and Lombardy. In recent years, it seems that this bird has also chosen to move towards southern Italy (see p. 313).

The stork lays its eggs in April and then the offspring fly off with the parents in August. Generally, these birds seem to build their nests in isolated trees or structures like bell-towers, chimneys, telephone poles and the roofs of tall buildings... and now one couple has even taken to an electricity pylon. The couple that started nesting in Capitanata in 1999 has chosen a low voltage power line pole for the nest. This structure is in the Moschella district, in an area where the environment is well suited to nesting.

This event has attracted the attention of the various environmental groups in the Puglia (or Apulia) region, such as the Italian League for the Protection of Birds (LIPU) and the WWF. These groups, in collaboration with Enel, have backed various initiatives aimed at protecting these ‘guests’. The Festival of the Stork was organised and volunteers from LIPU take turns to watch over the birds. They are assisted by the forestry service and the municipal police of Cerignola. Interestingly, the latter town has a stork with a snake in its beak on its coat of arms. Legend says that, in a time long ago, the town of Foggiano was invaded by snakes but freed by storks. Following the amazing event of 1999, in 2001 some individual birds were spotted at Orta Nova, also in Capitanata.

Moreover, in April 2002, after three years, the storks returned to nest in the Foggia province, drawing the attention of experts and the curious once more. This time, the chosen location was a hay-barn near Lake Salso, in the vicinity of Manfredonia, a protected area on the edge of the Parco Nazionale del Gargano.

How to get there

Take the A14 motorway and exit at Foggia then take the SS546 or the dual carriageway for Candela, or alternatively the SS16, roads that all branch out from Foggia; from the A16 motorway, exit at Candela or Cerignola.

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