Romanian storks are staying at home this year and brown bears are giving hibernation a miss.
Why? Because it’s warm enough at home.
Experts says that some Romanian white storks are no longer making the tough yearly trip of thousands of kilometers south over the Mediterranean to spend the winter in warmer climes.
It may not be as balmy as Africa, but warmer weather has given Romania’s estimated 10,000 storks a reason to skip the journey.
“They migrated because they didn’t have food, but if there is food, they’ll stay,” Ovidiu Bufnila of Romania’s Ornithological Society told universul.net.
Milder winters have also made life easier for Romania’s stork population: Food such as frogs, rats and other rodents are available year-round, Bufnila notes.
“This is a first effect of global warming,” he said.
There aren’t any studies on these patterns, but “so far there are ten or so cases have been reported to us, that’s all we’ve heard about, but there are more and more,” he said.
“It started in 2013, there was a stork in Mogosoia who stayed during the winter, then another in Sf Gheorghe, then one Fagaras,.. and there are others we don’t know about. “
And like humans developed a taste for junk food, storks, which are carnivores, have become addicted to junk food that they find at landfills.
Romania’s brown bears have also found themselves desynchronized by climate change. Instead of making a den and settling down for 3-6 months of hibernation, the warm weather keeps them awake, out and roaming for food, said Cristian Remus Papp of World Wildlife Fund Romania.
“There are no bears hibernating in these temperatures,” said Papp. “Normally they would eat and have a fat reserve and go into their dens. “Now they are using energy roaming around,” he said.
At this time of year, when the temperature should be cooler than 4-6 Celsius during the day and below freezing at night, they would slowly start hibernating, he said. But it is simply not the case.
“There are numerous examples of bears feeding corn husks that was put out for wild boar,” Papp said. “It’s a widespread phenomenon and a concern for us conservationists.”
Climate change also affects reproduction as cubs which are usually born in the dens in January to February and nursed on their rich mother’s milk, no longer have the same safe shelter and the mother’s milk is less rich which “severely reduces chances of survival” said Papp.
Papp notes that “wild ducks and swan no longer migrate, because it’s a big risk,” he said. “They conserve their energies and stay here, like storks, who are doing this more and more often.”
And Romanians storks are like their West European cousins. Portugal has tens of thousands of storks who no longer cross the Mediterranean to Africa, the National Geographic reported in 2016, following a study.
Around 80 percent of storks in the region congregate during the winter near landfills for the junk food, the National Geographic reported. “White storks used to be wholly migratory. Before the 1980s, there were no white storks staying in” Spain and Portugal, Aldina Franco a conservation ecologist at the University of East Anglia in the U.K, who led a study was quoted as saying.
Not only are fewer European storks migrating, but their wings are getting shorter, said Bufnila, referring to reports from Poland. The warm weather has also brought new bird species to Romania.
The semi collared fly catcher has begun nesting in Romania, and a second species of cuckoo, the great spotted cuckoo has appeared in the country.
The great spotted cuckoo, a parasite that lays its eggs in the nests of other birds, is a native of Turkey, Iraq, Spain and Africa.
One animal that is thriving in the warmer weather according to World Wildlife Fund Romania, however, is the jackal which has multiplied not only in Romania, but across Europe.