My New Book


Bird Die Offs

There are more bird die offs being reported–now in other countries.  I have mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand, I’m irritated that every dead flock is being reported with added commentary (like CNN’s Anderson Cooper interviewing Kirk Cameron about the birds kills) asking if this is a sign of the “end times.”  On the other hand, I’m happy that flocks of dead birds are reported and that people know this happens.

Let me be clear about one thing: THIS IS NOT THE END TIMES.  This happens A LOT.  We just don’t hear about it.  To give you some perspective, millions of birds (of several species) are killed by windows, cell phone towers, wires, free roaming cats and vehicles every year.  The numbers may not be seen, the dead birds are often eaten in the night by opportune scavengers.

According to Bird Conservation Network: at least 100,000,000 birds are killed and even more are injured every year across North America by collisions with windows.

An estimated 5,000 to 10,000 birds, mostly lapland longspurs were killed on the night of January 22, 1998, at a 420 foot tall communications tower in western Kansas–cause for serious concern and panic…especially since this sort of thing happens a lot and few people hear of it.

According to US Fish and Wildlife: At least 4 million and as many as 50 million birds are killed annually in tower collisions, the US Fish and Wildlife Service estimates. Here is a GREAT document from US Fish and Wildlife about birds and collision injuries.

From my perspective, incredibly common birds like red-winged blackbirds, grackles and starlings that have a tendency to move around in tight knit flocks of hundreds of birds getting wiped out by colliding into power lines, vehicles, each other via panic from fireworks is a concern but not a panic.

Cause for panic is BP trying to say that the Gulf of Mexico is fine and only 2000 birds were killed.  There were more, they are not easily recovered in the water and we have yet to see how wintering ducks are going to fare (not to mention how many birds their response teams killed by driving over their nesting colonies).  Will there be enough food for years to come.  I’m still far more concerned with the BP big picture than I am with the Arkansas Aflockalypse.

If you doubt that millions of birds are killed every year, here’s a great example.  On September 11 of last year, they put up the Tribute of Light for the fallen Twin Towers and thousands of birds were trapped in it.  New York is on a major migratory bird route.  The winds were right for fall migration and birds were on the move.  With the tower lights on, they were attracted and couldn’t leave.  The lights had to be turned off several times to get the birds to leave rather than spending the night trapped in the lights, exhausting their energy resources and possibly killing them.  This is just one night in one spot.  That to me is cause for panic.  Thousands of birds of several different species.  Many of these birds are the insect eating kind, not the “pest kind” like blackbirds who raid fields.  Here’s a video of the event:

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So, listen to those news reports, don’t freak out that the end is near but do find ways that you can help solve these collision problems in your neighborhood and city.

9 comments to Bird Die Offs

  • Dymphnasis

    I remember reading about the birds and the lights from the 9/11 memorial. I also saw your blog regarding the oil rigs. Will green lights or something of that nature help prevent these problems? How do airports and other facilities that require huge lights avoid attracting birds?

  • While i’m interested in the “birds fall dead” thing that’s being reported a lot, it’s more one of those things that just makes my imagination wander. It would be good if more people knew the things you talk about here, although i doubt Anderson Cooper would bother. We really do need to know the consequences of what we do, and how we affect nature.

    Sorry, i got a little ranty there. :P

  • Excellent and informative post, it is so sobering to think about all the birds that die in unnatural ways and don’t get reported. It’s amazing there are any birds left.

  • Karen

    The banner ad that popped up when I watched the 9/11 video? The BP You Tube channel: “BP is making it right in the Gulf”.

  • Thanks for the voice of reason again Sharon. Nice entry. What you said, cause for concern, not panic. Now, every single bird death is getting reported, which, I find I oddly have mixed feelings about. What is a birder to do? I mean, I want people to keep their cats in, and fix their lighting, and design better skyscrapers, but I also don’t want a dozen dead sparrows in some small town to lead to mass confusion and speculations about conspiracy. It has really gotten ridiculous.

    Going spread the link to this entry as well. Somehow quelling the hysteria and encouraging folks to use these events to explore ornithology and bird watching further has become my mission this week. Most likely implanted into my brain at night by our Alien Overlords, posing as Common Grackle, tapping at my window.

    Maybe this is all my karma for harassing those poor little wrens on St. Stephens Day, that and scaring that heron off his breakfast the other day while trying to take his portrait.

  • Thanks for these sober comments. Hysteria tends to run wild on the ‘nets, while the facts — appalling enough, thank you — are ignored. (As if we need more proof that corporate media is BS.)

  • Thank you, Sharon. I’m here via BlissChick.
    I’ve been wondering on all these deaths … and appreciate your sane summary; I’ve felt deep alarm and mourning … and am astonished at how many “experts” insist that the deaths are “unrelated.” The common element is the human invasion of elements both visible (landscapes; lighting; buildings; aircraft) and invisible (air; electromagnetic fields). We erect huge glass towers; we destroy mountains, waterways and other natural markers; we pour poisons into the atmosphere. Birds all over the globe are losing their guideposts and havens to human infestation.

    I need to learn more … my response probably sounds alarmist … but at 52 years of age, I feel these losses in my bones, and because of our ‘instant news from everywhere’ culture, the evidence of huge tears in the natural order is sometimes overwhelming.

    Your blog’s header is beautiful :-)

  • Shannon

    I’m posting rather late to the conversation here, but I just watned to note that all throughout this month I’ve been peppering facebook discussions of “mass animal deaths” with links to your blog in addition to the Audubon Society, Cornell Bird Lab, etc.
    I have to say, though, once people get it in their head that something strange and apocalyptic is going on, nothing can change their minds. Some people are in love with being a skeptic (in the wrong, ill-informed way). Some people really love to say “we need to get to the bottom of all this!” but then reject the words of experts immediately.
    I’ve had conversations in which I’ve been told that if bird experts say this is normal, then obviously they aren’t considering how the fish/shellfish deaths are related (because all the scientific communities operate in complete ignorance of one another? Get real). Honestly, if I were an ornithologist with a PhD (like some of the people I’ve references in conversations about this), I’d be really pissed off at people who say that I’m “not considering all the facts.”
    Thanks for remaining a voice of reason – if only for providing me with a haven where I can duck in out of the storm of intentional panic.