A rare bald Ibis that seems to have a different sense of direction to her fellow birds has once again had to be rescued after getting stuck trying to find a different route to the southern Italian feeding ground.
The Northern Bald Ibis was made extinct in Europe over 400 years ago due to excessive hunting, but was reintroduced a decade ago thanks to an Austrian conservation programme that involved using a microlight to teach the birds how to migrate southwards.
Now every year dozens of the birds from three different colonies around Europe are making the trip down to Italy’s Tuscany region where they spend the winter in the comparative warmth before heading back to Austria and Germany in summer.
Every year new birds are still being guided on the trip by a microlight aircraft but the female bird Shorty is stubbornly refusing to take the same route as all the others, and keeps trying to fly the other way around the Alps.
Project manager Johannes Fritz said: “It is really incredible for us to see the way that she obviously has a brain wired in a different way and feels taking a different direction would be a better way of going south.
“The route she is taking could actually work and is not clear whether she is following some deep rooted inherited instinct in rejecting the route we have mapped out for all the other birds which they seem to be happily following.”
This year they have for the second year had to rescue Shorty by getting her from the Inn Valley which runs from Switzerland through Central Austria where she ended up instead of following the other birds.
Last year Shorty got as far as Lake Zug in the Central Swiss cantons of Zug and Schwyz where she had joined a local goose colony for winter rather than heading further south.
Fritz added: “Shorty is an outstanding Waldrapp personality. It’s quite possible that she will become the pioneer of a new Swiss Bald Ibis population, with a western migration corridor along the Alps leading down to Tuscany. We assume that Shorty does know where to migrate to and hope that she’ll find it on her own.”
Meanwhile people in the Swiss town who have welcomed the unusual looking visitor are so impressed the fact she has made it back for a second year in a row that they have even commissioned statue by the artist Martin Chramosta which has now been unveiled in the city of Zug to commemorate the first winter the bird spent by the lake.