WORDS Luka Alexander

The stork has become an icon of the Algarve, nesting high on the tall chimneys of the region’s former factories and setting up home in the most precious of places, including telephone poles, electric pylons, and even on a pile of old gas bottles. But have these majestic creatures made the Algarve their new home just as many expats have?

At one time, the Algarve’s storks used to nest here for the summer months before migrating over the Atlantic to spend the winter in a much warmer North Africa. However, more recently, the storks seem to have made our part of the world their full-time home, taking advantage of visa-free travel and the much warmer winter climate that has developed over recent years. 

Driving down the Estrada National 266 between Monchique and Portimão, a huge colony of storks have set up base in one of the many fields, drawing hundreds of tourists to stop at the side of the road to take a photo or a selfie of these rather handsome inhabitants. 

Whilst an old wive’s tale says that storks deliver newborn babies in a sling, it’s hard to believe they would have the time during the spring season, as they seem to be busy making babies of their own! The clattering we hear on a daily basis could easily be mistaken for machine gun fire but rest assured, this is only the stork’s distinct mating call. The males clatter their beaks in the hope of attracting a beautiful female. Eventually, the fruits of their loins will appear as little fluffy chicks peering over the edge of their large nests waiting for Mum or Dad to return with some well-deserved tasty morsels. 

Throughout the past winter, on several journeys along the N266, never has a day gone by when I haven’t seen a group of cars pulled up for their owners to see the beauty of these majestic creatures. Even I can’t help but take a snap of these large birds which have graced these lands for so long. Whilst it’s hard to keep count, and though I may not be Sir David Attenborough, I’d guess one might assume there are at least a couple of hundred storks, famously standing on one leg, posing for the tourists in this free-to-visit attraction. 

The fame of the N266 storks has spread so far and wide that they even appear as a German listing on Google Maps as “Tal der Störche” (the Valley of Storks), where eagle-eyed tourists clamber along the roadside, taking out their cameras and selfie sticks to document these creatures before they migrate, or should I say ‘if’ they migrate?

With their average lifespan predicted at over 30 years, the oldest known stork was believed to have lived almost up to the grand old age of 40. Maybe their old age is due to their sleep patterns as they’re known to sleep whilst flying in rising air currents. On the other hand, their longevity is more likely to do with their genetic make-up. One thing for sure is that many generations of storks have favoured the Algarve as their home, whether temporarily or permanently. 

Who knows how long they will stay? Are they planning on staying here for another full year, or will Africa be calling them back next winter? Only time will tell, but if I were them, I’d choose the beautiful Algarve any day, and so far, that seems to be their thinking too.

If you want to see one of the largest stork colonies for yourself, take the N266 and you’ll find the colony on the left-hand side near the Cepsa petrol station. 

GPS Coordinates: 37.2154, -8.5436.