Storks Ditch Migration for Year-Round Landfill Life
University of East Anglia
Many white storks live in Spain and Portugal all year -- feeding on 'junk food' from landfill sites, which provides an abundant and reliable food supply.
Gene Harriman, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Some birds have a flair for the funky when it comes to selecting where to build their nests, finds theCelebrate Urban Birds project
at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Now that spring nesting season is underway, don't be surprised if you find a nest in old boots left outside, on top of traffic signals, in gutters and downspouts and at many other surprising locations. This osprey, for example, unintentionally gave the female figure depicted by the statue a "hat." Underway right now is Cornell's "Funky Nests in Funky Places" contest, where entrants can submit photos, videos and more documenting oddly placed nests. "Many people, particularly those living in cities, are not aware of all the wild birds living in in their neighborhoods, believing they would only be found in faraway places," Cornell's Marta del Campo told Discovery News. The challenge, held every spring since 2009, was created to encourage people to discover the kinds of birds living and nesting in their neighborhoods, del Campo explained.Birds Use Butts In Nests to Deter Parasites
Darlene Wilson, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
A ladder serves as an avian "condo," since multiple American robins decided to build their nest on it. Del Campo said that American robins, along with mourning doves, house sparrows and certain hummingbird species, commonly build their nests in unexpected urban locations.Photos: Nests Made Out of Weird Materials
Laura Palmer, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Hopefully the owner of this truck in Pennsylvania did not go for a drive for a while! Presumably, the truck had been stationary for quite some time, catching the eye of an industrious American robin seeking a sheltered space. If you find a nest, del Campo and her team urge that you leave it undisturbed. "Even if a nest has been built in a somewhat inconvenient place (for you), be patient," she said. "In a few weeks the birds will be gone. Meanwhile, you get a front-row seat to a wonder of nature. Do not provide food or get too close to the nest because this can attract predators and stress the bird, which might then abandon the nest."Birds Build Nests with Camouflage in Mind
Kathy West, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Using spider web to affix its nest to a single bulb in a strand of holiday lights, this tiny Anna's hummingbird successfully hatched two chicks last year.Video: Steal Super Powers From Birds
Patrick Izzo, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
A goose figurine became home sweet home to a real live bird, a common moorhen. "When birds are looking for a place to nest, they seek specific qualities, depending on the species," del Campo said. "For example, some bird species, such as woodpeckers and chickadees, look for cavities, while hawks like to build on flat surfaces in high places, such as window ledges on tall buildings that must seem like natural cliffs to them." As for the common moorhen, it must have liked its "room" with a view, not to mention the protection provided by the island-like figurine.
Stan DeForest, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
The owner of these motorcycle helmets must have been surprised when he found birds nesting in them. "Even in urban areas, we're a lot closer to birds than you might think," Celebrate Urban Birds project leader Karen Purcell said. "This contest is a lot of fun, but it's also about really being aware of what's around you and taking the time to appreciate birds and all of nature."
Rosemary Atwell, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Neighbors passing by must have given this wreath with an apparent mourning dove "decoration" a second look when the bird actually moved. The dove may have been attracted by the natural materials of the wreath and decided to move in.
Mike Tinkham, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Perhaps the nursery rhyme about Old Mother Hubbard was inspired by a sight like this: a Carolina wren's nest in a golf shoe. "All birds are looking for a place where they can be safe from predators and where food and water are handy," del Campo said. "When you look at it that way, some of the 'weird' locations actually make some sense. A bird nesting in an old shoe in your garage will be protected from bad weather and out of view of predators."
Deborah Reimer, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
By the size of this nest, Big Bird himself could have moved in. Del Campo and Purcell said that BBQ grills actually are fairly common as bird nesting spots. Around houses, birds might also construct their nests in potted plants, on and in light fixtures, on shrubs, atop balconies, under eaves, on doorsills and windowsills.
Vincent O'Brien, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
An American robin selected this urinal in Texas for its nest site. It appears to have been a good decision, based on the many healthy-looking chicks seen in this photo. This location might make Cornell's evolving "funkiest of the funky" list. As of now, the list also includes a great horned owl nest found in a laundry basket on a tree in Toronto, a mourning dove nest on a tombstone in New Orleans, and a European starling nest on retired V1 rockets at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
Isabel McKay, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
This house sparrow nesting in a dinosaur's mouth seemingly has come full circle, since birds themselves are dinosaurs. (Scientists sometimes refer to dinos as "non-avian dinosaurs" to keep the two groups distinct.) Entries to the Funky Nests in Funky Places challenge are due by June 15, so there is plenty of time to seek out likely subjects. "We are looking for fun and interesting stories about the surprising nests people find in their neighborhoods," del Campo said, "but we do caution people, again, not to get too close to nests. We don't want any harm to come to the birds." Guidelines are at thecontest's website.
White storks have found treasure in trash, ditching their winter migration from Europe to Africa in order to stay put and enjoy a steady diet of landfill junk food.
That’s what scientists from the University of East Anglia found, in new research that showed many of the baby-deliverers of folklore nesting and living year-round near landfills in Spain and Portugal.
“Storks now rely on landfill sites for food, especially during the non-breeding season when other food sources are more scarce,” said Aldina Franco, the study’s lead researcher, in a press release. “This has facilitated the establishment of resident populations.”
Franco and her team tracked 48 white storks’ movements between nesting and feeding areas to observe just how much they loved home-cooked trash.
“We found that the landfill sites enable year-round nest use, which is an entirely new behavior that has developed very recently,” said Franco. “This strategy enables the resident birds to select the best nest sites and to start breeding earlier.”
“Having a nest close to a guaranteed food supply also means that the storks are less inclined to leave for the winter,” Franco added. “They instead spend their non-breeding season defending their highly desirable nest locations.”
Portugal, in particular, is in the midst of a long-running stork boom.
“Portugal’s stork population has grown 10-fold over the last 20 years,” Franco said. “The country is now home to around 14,000 wintering birds, and numbers continue to grow.”
It might seem, then, that all is well and good. The birds have found a stable food supply and a place to rear their children. But trouble looms, in the form of imminent directives from the European Union.
“Rubbish dumps sites in Portugal are scheduled to be gradually replaced by new facilities where food waste is handled under cover,” said Franco. “This will cause a problem for the storks as they will have to find an alternative winter food supply. It may well impact on their distribution, breeding location, chick fledging success and migratory decisions.”
Franco and her team’s findings have just been published in the journal Movement Ecology.