A recent study has shown that white storks from Europe have become lazier and prefer to eat junk food instead of taking flight and migrating to other regions. Storks would usually travel for more than 62 miles (one hundred kilometers) to either the south of the Saharan Desert in Africa or to South Europe, but it seems these days they prefer landfills where they can feast on garbage and leftovers.
A team of researchers working at the University of East Anglia were the ones to discover the disappearance of the migrating patterns of the birds. It appears that storks have given up on their long travels because of climate change and the availability of foods from landfills, where they can scoop through tons of garbage.
What the researchers did was to select 48 white storks and track them by using the GPS. Seventeen of the birds lived in colonies which made their homes near the landfills. In this way, they found out that storks fed upon leftovers and thus did not find themselves in need of traveling elsewhere. It appears that they have also tried eating other non-digestible items like computer parts.
According to Aldina Franco, study lead author and ecologist, the birds gather behind trucks and proceed to forage for food from the first moment the vehicles appear. This has also resulted in a rise in the population of storks: only in Portugal there are currently more than 14,000 such creatures, a number that is ten times bigger than twenty years ago.
While the habit might seem disgusting or unhealthy, it appears to have been beneficial for the population of storks. By setting their nests right next to landfills, they have secured a sure and constant source of food. However, it has also created a never-before-seen change in their behavior, and the birds have thus lost their motivation to migrate.
According to the Landfill Directive of the European Union, all member states must phase out all their landfills before 2018. It may be that two years from now the birds will have to return to their customs and travel once more. If they could so easily change their lifestyle, they must be able to re-adapt.
However, Franco pointed out that they might not find it in themselves to go back, and after a terrible struggle might start dying out. Furthermore, the low quality of this food they are eating might also be damaging their health. Perhaps further studies might shed more light on the matter.
Image Source: Mother Nature Network