While we generally think of laziness and urge for convenience as human traits, they are far, far from it. A great number of animals share these traits with us, making them look ridiculously anthropomorphic. And I’m not just talking about the cute animals with human features you can see in internet videos day in and day out, but also about wild animals.
According to a team of British and Portuguese researchers, the bad habits of humans are spreading to the ranks of the animals as well, as landfill junk food stops storks from migrating. As strange as that sounds, that’s exactly what’s going on right now in countries like Portugal and Spain.
According to the team of international researchers,
Landfill sites provide abundant food resources that are reliable in both space and time, thus likely contributing to enabling individuals to remain in their breeding territory and on their nests year-round.
This has wide ramifications in ranks of the birds, causing Portugal’s white stork population to now be ten times larger than 20 years ago. But that’s not all. Aside from the number of birds multiplying, a large population of a couple of tens of thousands is now simply choosing to stay there year-round.
And the two are totally tied into each other, as since the birds don’t need because they have their food source nearby, they just select the best nesting sites and start breeding earlier. So not only are the animals eating unhealthy and moving far less than they used to, but now they are also breeding earlier than ever.
However, that’s not to say that the birds are content with having their nests near landfills. By tracking 48 birds and studying their location as often as five times a day, the team determined that the storks were willing to travel. They were shown willing to fly up to thirty miles to a landfill when outside of mating season, and up to 17 during mating season. After all, you don’t guano where you eat.
According to Dr. Aldina Franco, lead researcher and faculty member at the University of East Anglia’s School of Environmental Sciences in Norwich, England,
You see some individuals go from the nest to the landfill site and then just go back to the nest.
Of course, climate change is also a huge contributor to the animals’ strange behavior, as they would have abandoned their junk food if the weather called for it. But with the increasingly warm European winters, the birds also have their favorite food source at their disposal – red swamp crayfish.
Image source: Wikimedia