Birds bred in captivity are led on their three-week migration south from Germany by human ‘foster parents’ in light aircraft
Leaning out of an ultralight aircraft, Corinna Esterer turns toward a flock of peculiar black birds soaring just a few metres away. “Come, come ibis,” she yells through her megaphone. Drawn by Esterer’s voice, the birds dart to the aircraft, and follow it to a field overlooking Lake Constance in southern Germany. Once on the ground, the ibis flock to Esterer. To the birds, the young woman is their parent.
For more than 300 years, the northern bald ibis has been extinct in the wild in central Europe, with small populations surviving only in zoos. But recently, it has celebrated a slow but steady comeback thanks to human foster parents who have shown the birds how to migrate south by leading the way in ultralight aircraft.