We are slowly changing the world, day by day and refuse bag by refuse bag. The waste from our homes accumulates in massive landfills, and as a species we don’t really have a long term plan for dealing with all this waste. Often we don’t fully grasp the complete impact we are having on the environment. Studies have now shown that white storks have become addicted to junk food, and how exactly does one keep birds out of our ever growing landfills.
Our influence is completely altering their migratory patterns, and storks are choosing to build their nests nearby landfills rather than flying south for the winter. The bird is among a growing number of migratory species that have changed their behaviour due to human influences and global environmental change. New research published today 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.”
“This study looked at the birds’ reliance on landfill food, we 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.