Birds such as storks are seen to forgo cold weather journeys due to the lure of trashy food scraps.
Fairy tales tell of storks carrying babies dangling in swaddling clothes from their beaks. However, in real life storks migrate from Europe to Africa annually during the winter. Since the 80s though these storks have chosen a different route.
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A majority of them stay the course in Spain and Portugal. They make themselves sick eating junk food in the form of scraps in landfills. This source of free and cheap eatables is plentiful and so they decide to remain stationary in the region.
Storks are just one example of a bird species that has changed its behavioral repertoire thanks to human intervention and climate crisis. White storks live in landfill sites and remain their for the whole year.
Furthermore, the forced ending of landfill sites by the authorities may cause these birds to be left high and dry. Their populations will be decimated and overall it will have a devastating effect on the birds.
Over the past two decades or so, the stork population in Portugal has grown to ten times its original number. About 14,000 such birds arrive in Portugal.
The current times are an interesting era to do some research on bird migration patterns. Many of the storks have given up their instinctual honing actions and started residing near landfills because they get free food in the form of viands thrown by human beings.
The continual availability of junk food means that the storks follow certain trends. These include: nest-building, distance traveled on a daily basis and finding of food sources.
48 white storks were tracked using GPS devices. Their location was identified five times a day. The behavior of the birds was also covered.
This tracking system showed that the storks relied on landfill sites for food. This was particularly so during the time when they were not busy giving birth to their progeny.
In fact, now permanent colonies of the birds had taken up residence in the landfill sites. Such circumstances are indeed wholly new. They point to the addiction and dependence the birds seem to have developed for the junk food scraps in the landfill sites. These storks have also forgone their usual winter migration journeys. Now that the landfill sites are to be closed, the storks will be facing tough times ahead as their free and easy food supply will not be available anymore.
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This study published today in the journal Movement Ecology.