White Storks

Storks Feasting on Junk Food

It’s an unlikely meet-up. Storks, food security, climate change, and obesity are coming together in the garbage dumps of Spain and Portugal. A new study published in Movement Ecology finds that European white storks are abandoning their usual migration patterns to feast on abundant junk food in landfills of the Iberian peninsula.

Nathalie Gilbert and colleagues analyzed the movements of storks fitted with GPS devices and found that they’ve become dependent on junk food in these landfills, especially when other foods are relatively scarcer. So they are cutting their winter migration to Africa short and instead stopping at the Iberian dumps. Where few storks nested in Portugal 20 years ago, more than 14,000 are there now — many of them staying year-round.

This is quite a story of interconnections. A 2011 paper noted that body weight in animals has been growing in parallel with our own obesity epidemic. Inefficiencies in the production and distribution of food is yielding a steady increase in food waste that harms the environment. Food waste has grown in parallel with a steadily growing supply of calories that move through food production and distribution. This increased food energy supply goes a long way to explain the growth in obesity rates and the growth in food waste. Now with this paper, we see it exerts a direct effect on the lives of animals.

Perhaps the growing attention to the issue of food waste is a good idea.

Click here to read more in the New York Times and here to read the study in Movement Ecology. You can find more information on food waste here and here.

White Storks, photograph © Khánh Hmoong / flickr

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March 26, 2016

One Response to “Storks Feasting on Junk Food”

  1. March 26, 2016 at 8:30 pm, Allen Browne said:

    Very interesting!