Anthropogenic food subsidies reshape the migratory behaviour of a long-distance migrant

J. Marcelino, A. M. A. Franco, M. Acácio, A. Soriano-Redondo, F. Moreira, I. Catry

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Bird migratory journeys are often long and hostile, requiring high energetic expenditure, and thus forcing birds to pause between migratory flights. Stopover sites allow migrants to replenish fuel reserves and rest, being crucial for the success of migration. Worldwide, the increasing accumulation of waste on landfills and rubbish dumps has been described to provide superabundant food resources for many bird species not only during the breeding and wintering seasons but also during migration, being used as stopover sites. Using GPS-tracking data of juvenile white storks (Ciconia ciconia) during their first migration from the Iberia Peninsula to the sub-Saharan wintering grounds, we uncover the effects of stopping en route on individual migratory performance. Particularly, we examine the benefits of stopping at artificial sites (landfills and rubbish dumps) when compared to natural stopover sites (wetlands, agricultural or desert areas) and explore the influence of anthropogenic food resources on storks' migratory strategies. Overall, white storks spent up to one-third of the migration in stopovers. We found that birds that stopped for longer periods made more detours, increasing migration duration by half a day for each stopover day. Stopping more often did not reflect on increasing in-flight energetic efficiency nor the likelihood of completing the migration. Juvenile storks used artificial sites in 80 % of the stopover days, spending 45 % less time and 10 % less energy foraging than when using natural stopovers. While stopping in landfills did not translate into differences in migratory performance, individuals in poor body condition possibly rely on these sites to improve body weight before proceeding, enabling them to successfully complete migration. Artificial stopover sites are attractive and likely increase the number and duration of stops for white storks. Even though the consequences of arriving late at the wintering grounds are unknown, it can lead to cascading consequences, influencing individual fitness and population dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number159992
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number3
Early online date7 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2023


  • Ciconia ciconia
  • Landfills
  • Migration
  • Stopover behaviour
  • Western European flyway
  • White stork

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