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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Junk Food Storks

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Tuesday, March 22, 2016/Categories: natural history, wildlife conservation, birds, sustainability, environment


                                   European White Storks Nexting on Spanish Church (credit: Wikicommons)

Who would have guessed that those majestic long-distance fliers the storks would develop a taste for burgers and fries not to mention pasta or curry? The bird's original migration routes from wintering grounds in Africa to nests on rooftops in Europe or flying in summer from Siberia to lofty winter perches in South Asia are taking detours. The birds now stop at human garbage dumps enroute so they can poke around for morsels of rotting leftovers. They've decided to stay as well.

Research published in Movement Ecology documents the changes in migration patterns of European white storks as they migrate north and now stop at landfills in Spain and Portugal to eat what has been discarded. The authors of the ecological study conclude:

The continuous availability of food resources on European landfills has facilitated year-round nesting in white storks and is influencing their ranges and movement behaviour. The storks rely on these sites for foraging during the non-breeding season when other food is scarcer and this artificial food has assisted the establishment of resident populations. The closure of landfills, as required by the European law, will likely cause dramatic impacts on white stork populations.

Similar migration observations are being seen elsewhere as a report from Indian shows:

The new ecology study illustrates how some wildlife species are adapting to human induced changes to their environment. But as the Audubon Society recognizes, the consequences of birds injesting plastic and other bits of petrochemcially-produced junk are unknown but can't be good in the long term.  Petrochemicals are known carcinogens and endrocrine disruptors, particularly impacting embryonic and developing mammals, fish, and birds.

One thing is clear, tourist postcards will not be altered soon to show storks on garbage dumps rather than nesting on rooftops and steeples in alpine villages.



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