Attacking for the rights to use the nest

Storks: The battle of real estate

It’s hard to miss the sight of white storks “returning” to their nesting locations in January and February, and indeed this year I witnessed many on nests in December. 

I wrote it as “returning” because many white storks simply decide to remain in the Algarve instead of taking the trip south to Africa during the winter.

I have written many times regarding this and there are many opinions, from climate change to the greater human presence causing larger refuse dumps (the storks’ favourite fast-food restaurant).

It’s clear that the population of white storks in the Algarve is thriving. It is normal for a pair of mating storks to return to the same nesting location each year. The size of the nest is an indication on how successful a pair has been previously as they increase the size of the nest each year.

Dancing? No, fighting

Breeding success and the continued construction development of the Algarve creates conflict during this time of year. Many nests are being removed for development purposes. A licence is required to disturb any nest, but this is a discussion for another time. It’s a hot topic right now.

Storks without nests, whether juveniles looking to start breeding or adults without a nest, have to construct new nests, but why when there are already so many perfect nests?

You may watch these graceful birds soaring with ease on the thermals, but they can be very aggressive in their plight to conquer another breeding pair’s nest.


I was walking near the Aqua Shopping Centre in Portimão a few days ago and there were multiple birds fighting for the prime location of the old chimney stack near the entrance to the shopping centre.

Beaks were “clacking”, youngsters “hissing” and feathers flying as sharp beaks were being used as weapons to dominate the ownership of the nest. I watched for 10 minutes as the mating pair, unsure if they are the original residents, successfully defended the nest from the constant onslaught of other birds.

Although an aggressive sight, it’s a quiet affair apart from the “clacking” and “hissing”. This is due to storks being mute.

Collage of a flying fight

The clacking of beaks is used as a greeting and also aggression in attack and defend. Juveniles can also make a hissing sound with the movement of air.

To watch birds as large as white storks being able to attack and defend in-flight is an incredible sight, and it’s hard to imagine how they actually remain in the air.

Next time you are near nest sites during the next few weeks, stop and watch as you will probably witness this incredible display of attack and defend.

By Craig Rogers
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Craig Rogers is a wildlife and nature photographer from Wales now living in the Algarve, offering photography workshops. For more information, photographs and his blog visit