(ABC News) -- A marauding stork has been attacking cars and windows in a northern German village, doing a fair share of property damage in the process. A conservationist says the incidents highlight bigger problems for the species.
In traditional European folklore, storks symbolize fertility and good luck. But after this summer, residents of one northern German village are more likely to associate the large birds with bills from the auto repair shop.
According to local media reports, a male stork has been "patrolling" the streets of Bergholz, in the state of Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania, attacking cars and house windows. Mayor Ulrich Kersten told news agency DPA that at least four cars had been dented by the stork, causing an estimated $390 to $1,300 in damage, depending on the model.
"This stork sees his reflection in the sides of cars or windows and thinks it is a rival in his territory," says Helmut Eggers, head of the state's working group for the protection of the White Stork with the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU). "It only follows that he would try to chase this rival away by pecking at him."
In hopes of preventing further damage by the stork, locals have reportedly started covering their vehicles and windows with blankets and cardboard.
Eggers says that he has heard repeated reports of such incidents in recent years, and calls it "totally normal biological behavior." He blames the phenomenon in part on improvements in industrial materials, which have made them more reflective.
Lost Habitat Partially to Blame
At first, residents weren't sure where the scratches and dents on their cars were coming from, until one family caught the stork in the act. "We saw the bird messing with our family car," Kerstin Werth told daily Der Nordkurier. "After we shooed the stork away, our neighbors' car was next."
Another family told the paper that the stork -- which has been dubbed "Meister Adebar" after the stork who brings babies in German fairy tales -- woke up the entire house at 5 a.m. as it attacked their terrace window.
According to stork conservationist Eggers, the large birds can injure themselves this way, and the problem points to a larger issue for the more than 830 stork pairs that were counted nesting in the state last year. Encroachment on the birds' natural habitat is driving them into residential areas, he says.
"The shrinking food supply means they are venturing into people's gardens and into the streets," Eggers told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "That means they are more likely to come into contact with these reflections."