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Storks lured by landfills of junk food

Storks lured by landfills of junk food

And you thought that you are the only one who loved junk food Researchers from University of East Anglia have explored a new facet of white storks. These storks can give you a competition when it comes to love for junk food. They make round-trips of almost 100km to get their fix. Now, you will not do that.

Many live in Spain and Portugal the whole year round - feeding on 'junk food' from landfill sites, which provide an abundant and reliable food supply.

The blame again comes to you for bringing about the change in environment, which has had a great impact on these birds. New research published is the first to confirm that white storks are now resident nesting and living near landfill sites all year round.

And researchers now fear that the closure of landfills, as required by EU Landfill Directives, will have a dramatic impact on white stork populations.

Lead researcher Dr Aldina Franco, from UEA's School of Environmental Sciences, said, Portugal's stork population has grown 10 fold over the last 20 years. The country is now home to around 14,000 wintering birds, and numbers continue to grow. These are exciting times to study animal migration. Several species, including the white stork, which used to be fully migratory in Europe now have resident populations. We want to understand the causes and the mechanisms behind these changes in migratory behaviour.

In an earlier study this year, lead author Dr. Andrea Flack from Germany's Max Planck Institute for Ornithology had stated that There is some sort of human impact that causes these birds to change their migration strategy.

It was added that this study looked at the birds' reliance on landfill food, and it was found that the continuous availability of junk food from landfill has influenced nest use, daily travel distances, and foraging ranges.

The research team tracked 48 birds using GPS tracking devices, which transmit their positions five times a day. Each tracker also collected accelerometer information with detailed data about the birds' behaviour. The researchers are developing these trackers at UEA together with colleagues from the University of Lisbon and Porto and from the British Trust for Ornithology.

The data allowed the team to track the storks' movement between nesting and feeding areas, detect long and short distance flights, and study their behaviour - to see whether they were standing and preening, foraging for food, or tending their eggs.

Storks now rely on landfill sites for food, especially during the non-breeding season when other food sources are more scarce. This has facilitated the establishment of resident populations.

Researchers found that the landfill sites enable year-round nest use, which is an entirely new behaviour that has developed very recently. This strategy enables the resident birds to select the best nest sites and to start breeding earlier.

In a comment, Birdlife International s Stuart Butchart highlighted the decrease in many more migratory species due to habitat loss, breeding pattern changes, and events driven by agriculture, logging, and degradation of coastal mudflats due to land reclamation.

Under new EU Landfill Directives, rubbish dumps sites in Portugal are scheduled to be gradually replaced by new facilities where food waste is handled under cover. This will cause a problem for the storks as they will have to find an alternative winter food supply. It may well impact on their distribution, breeding location, chick fledging success and migratory decisions, the research stated.

Storks lured by landfills of junk food