According to a new scientific study reported in The Guardian, European white storks have skipped their annual winter trip to the warmer Africa because they have all the food they need right at home.
It’s not the best source of nutrition, however, seeing that the big birds have camped near Europe’s massive landfills which about in leftover food.
The study conducted by a group of scientists from the University of East Anglia tracked the activity of 48 white storks as they were commuting between their breeding grounds and the landfills, where they got their ‘junk food fix.’
For the study, the researchers had fitted the 48 storks with GPS devices so they could monitor their every movement. The results showed that the storks were flying to and from the landfills with indications that their nesting grounds were used more frequently around the year than before.
During winter time, white storks used to go on a migratory trip to warmer weather and continents, moving away from Europe to Africa, for example. However, the report said that many storks have kicked that habit since the 1980s.
For example, roughly 14,000 storks stay for the winter in Portugal and Spain, visiting their nesting grounds around the year, without exception.
Researchers further noted that because they have access to food nearby – particularly because of open landfills, the big birds which skip the migratory trip in the winter can call dibs on the most favorable nesting places.
Therefore, the storks breed earlier which increased the survival chances of their offspring. In turn, stork populations in the area are expected to be on the rise.
This new behavior of white stork should be taken into consideration if Europe wants to cover their open landfills, according to lead researcher Dr. Aldina Franco.
But there’s a dilemma: is the increase in stork population worth the potential endangering of the birds which pick their food from garbage landfills? One researcher from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology explained the birds are in fatal danger if they ingest plastic or toxic or poisonous materials.
On the other hand, this new report has warned that the absence of the white storks in the places they used to migrate to can also have some long-term effect on the local ecosystem.
These birds are known to feed on locusts, for example, so without them, infestation could occur and wreak havoc on local crops.
Image Source: MNN