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Storks & Junk Food

March 21, 2016

Storks in Europe are forgoing migration to Africa because of the ready availability of human food from landfills.


Aldina Franco White Stork Research Group1

White storks look for food scraps at a landfill in Portugal. (Aldina Franco/White Stork Research Group)


Storks on junk food. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

White storks used to migrate from Portugal to Africa every winter. But according to a new study in the journal Movement Ecology, they’ve recently abandoned the long, perilous journey in favor of a life of leisure right at home. University of East Anglia ecologist Aldina Franco says they’ve established year-round colonies near garbage dumps, which are brimming with discarded human food.


They start breeding earlier and raise a larger number of offspring closer to the landfill site.


But their good fortune could be fleeting, as all of Portugal’s landfills are slated for closure within the next few years.


That will no longer enable the birds to have access to these resources. It’s a fantastic experiment: will they change their migratory behavior, will they die, will they revert to natural areas? We don’t know.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Aldina Franco White Stork Research Group2a

A white stork with a tracker. (Aldina Franco/White Stork Research Group)