03 July 2010

Who Is Really Killing the Birds?

We estimate that from 500 million to possibly over 1 billion birds are killed annually in the United States due to anthropogenic sources including collisions with human - made structures such as vehicles, buildings and windows, power lines, communication towers, and wind turbines; electrocutions; oil spills and other contaminants; pesticides; cat predation; and commercial fishing by-catch. _fs.fed.us
ImageSource Bird Deaths in Millions of Birds

With all of the tear-jerking photos of oil-covered birds circulating through the media lately, it may help to review the real threats to bird life as a result of human activities. (we will overlook for now all the things humans do to preserve bird life)
Window strikes – estimated to kill 97 to 976 million birds/year – Millions of houses and buildings, with their billions of windows, pose a significant threat to birds. Birds see the natural habitat mirrored in the glass and fly directly into the window, causing injury and, in 50% or more of the cases, death. Simple steps can be taken to reduce the number of birds striking windows. Decals that stick to the glass are not very effective, but strips of tape on the outside of the glass, or strings or feathers hanging outside the window, each no more than 10 inches apart, are fairly effective. Decorative features like stained glass designs or window dividers can achieve the same result. Outside screens are very effective both to reduce the reflection and to cushion the impact. In short, anything that reduces or breaks up the window’s reflection will reduce bird strikes. Lots of excellent info at FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program) ; follow the link to collision prevention and be sure to check out the “CollidEscape” film.

Communication towers – estimates of bird kills are impossible to make because of the lack of data, but totals could easily be over 5 million birds/year, and possibly as many as 50 million. Towers have proliferated in recent years, with an estimated 5000 new towers erected per year during the 1990s, mainly for the cell phone and digital TV industries. Any tall structure will kill birds by collision, and lighted towers attract birds at night. Theoretically cellphone towers are less dangerous than the taller structures, but there is no data either way, and the sheer number of cell phone towers may outweigh any other advantage. More info at FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program) and TOWERKILL .

High tension line collisions – may kill up to 174 million birds per year. This figure extrapolates from European studies to the millions of miles of aerial wires in North America. There are very few data in North America.

Electrocutions kill tens of thousands of birds per year. This occurs mainly when large birds such as raptors make contact between a live electrical wire and a ground such as a pole. The relatively small number of birds affected belies the significance of this threat, since species such as Golden Eagle are more susceptible. Large predators like eagles have smaller population sizes and lower reproduction rates than songbirds, so removing a few thousand birds from the population will have a much larger impact than removing the same number of, say, Savannah Sparrows. Studies byHawkWatch International revealed an electrocution rate of just under 1 bird per 100 poles per year, or 547 birds at 74,000 poles in Utah in 2001-2002. About 10% of the birds killed were Golden Eagles, 34% Ravens, and another 25%Buteos (Red-tailed, Swainson’s and Ferruginous Hawks). Fortunately PacifiCorp, the owner of the poles, is committed to making changes to reduce electrocutions, and hopefully other regions will follow.

Cars may kill 60 million birds per year. Of over 8 million lane miles of roads in the US, 6.3 million, or over ¾, are in rural areas where most birds are presumably killed. There’s not much we can do about this source of bird mortality short of changing our driving habits, but landscaping the roadside to discourage birds from congregating there is helpful. My own sense is that small cars with more aerodynamic designs hit fewer birds, while large boxy vans and trucks hit more birds, but I don’t think this has been studied. By the way, 100 years ago there were fewer than 250 miles of paved roads in North America, all in urban centers.

Wind turbines may kill 33,000 birds per year, and, as in the case of electrocutions, these birds tend to be large and scarce (e.g. raptors). The recent surge of interest in wind power has heightened concerns about their effect on birds, and has led to at least the discussion of efforts by the wind power industry to design more benign windmills and to choose locations that are less “birdy”. It’s difficult for an environmentalist to come out against renewable energy like wind turbines, but as long as the electricity generated is considered a “supplement” to satisfy increasing demand, wind power will not really help the fight against global warming. Establishment of wind farms should go hand-in-hand with drastic cuts in electricity use, and there is a real need for more study of the relationship between birds and wind farms. _SibleyGuides
We know that wind turbines kill more birds than BP. As more large wind turbines are built, the number of bird (and bat) kills will rise into the millions a year. Green mulch-for-brains faux environmentalists promote the building of huge numbers of giant bird-killing wind turbines, while clamouring for the shutdown of oil drilling, coal mining, and nuclear power plants.

Why don't they just come out and admit that they hate birds almost as much as they hate people? It seems as if the "great human dieoff" being promoted by faux environmentalists is not just for humans, after all. What other species do Greenpeace, Sierra Club, World Wildlife Federation and the rest of the poseurs have a planetary sized grudge against?

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Blogger neil craig said...

I assume the number killed by natural predators, mainly bigger birds, must be several billion. I can't imagine that pussycats come even close to being the major predatory animal in the USA.

Sunday, 04 July, 2010  

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