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Rather Than Migrate, Storks Now Just Eat Trash

Instead of continent-hopping every year, whole populations have settled down in the local landfill.

Storks chilling in their new full-time home.

Storks chilling in their new full-time home. (Photo: UEA-BTO White Stork Project)

Storks, those elegant creatures often associated with new life and filial devotion, have recalibrated their lifestyles somewhat. According to a study published last week in Movement Ecology, storks’ love for junk food has outweighed their need to migrate, and many of them now live year-round at the dump.

White storks used to continent-hop every winter, following their food from Europe to Africa. Lately, though, they’ve found an easier meal source, report ecologists at the University of East Anglia, who recently put trackers on 48 of them. According to their findings, thousands of Portuguese storks now just hang out in landfills full time, breeding, nesting, and gorging on trash.

These birds breed earlier, and are more protective of their nest locations, the researchers say. And even those who don’t snap up garbage-side real estate will travel surprisingly far distances–about 60 miles round-trip–to visit. 

White storks in classier times.

White storks in classier times. (Photo: Thomas Bresson/CC BY 2.0)

Even in this brave new world, though, storks can’t catch a break–their trashy paradise is threatened by new EU landfill directives, which call for covered waste disposal sites. “This will cause a problem for the storks, as they will have to find an alternative winter food supply” said lead researcher Dr. Alina Franco in a statement. In other words, keep an eye out for hungry storks at your local open dumpster.

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