How a Stork Solved a Scientific Mystery

For centuries, Europeans didn’t really understand where birds went in the winter. They came up with ridiculous theories, such as the belief that they hibernated deep in the mud or at the bottom of the ocean. One Harvard professor even thought they went to the moon. However, one particularly tough stork cleared it all up for them. In 1822, a hunter near Mecklenburg, Germany, shot down a stork with an unusual African spear made of black wood, impaling the stork in its neck. When scientists realized the spear was from Africa, it provided the first concrete evidence of long-distance migration. The bird was stuffed by a taxidermist — spear intact — and today is on display at the Zoological Collection of the University of Rostock in Germany. The stork wasn’t the only bird to suffer the unusual fate. There have been at least 25 such storks found to date.