Age mediates access to landfill food resources and foraging proficiency in a long-lived bird species

Bruno Herlander Martins, Andrea Soriano-Redondo, Aldina M. A. Franco, Inês Catry

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Human activities have altered the availability of resources for wildlife. Landfill sites now provide abundant and predictable anthropogenic food subsidies worldwide, sustaining increasing numbers of opportunistic species and shaping their foraging behaviour. However, although individuals may differ in their ability to use these resources, the factors influencing this variability within species are still poorly known. Using GPS data from 68 adult and 67 juvenile white storks, Ciconia ciconia, tracked during their premigratory periods between 2018 and 2020, we investigated whether age determines landfill attendance and the ability to compete for space and food. Additionally, using video recordings of 165 adults and 124 juveniles obtained in the 2020 premigratory period, we investigated whether age influences landfill foraging proficiency and dominance over resources. Adult storks visited landfills on 57% of the days, while juveniles only visited landfills on 29% of the days. There was strong competition for food at landfills, with adults exerting dominance over juveniles, foraging predominantly in areas with higher food availability and outcompeting juveniles in food acquisition. Juveniles had significantly lower food intake rates in the best foraging areas and showed less aggressiveness, being forced to use adjacent lower quality areas. Overall, juveniles had limited access to landfill resources, suggesting that landfill diet specialization is mediated by age-related improvements in foraging expertise and increased competitiveness developed during maturation. Thus, landfill use is shaping foraging strategies and species behaviour from an early age, with potential consequences for population dynamics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-36
Number of pages14
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Early online date11 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

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