Man Made Bird Hazards
Last week The New York Times Green reported about two man made hazards killing birds needlessly every year: communication towers and hollow PVC pipes used as mine markers. In separate reports the manmade bird hazards were found to be accountable for several million bird casualties. What’s interesting is both communication towers and mine markers can be replaced by safer alternatives or eliminated altogether.
Communication towers are notorious for their guy wires and towering structures that prove to be a deadly obstacle in migrating birds’ flight path. The New York Times Green reports that most of neotropical migrating birds like thrushes and warblers fly at night, putting them at high risk of collisions. Dozens of birds might be found at the base of the communication towers in the morning. The bright light of the towers is one of the suspected culprits, either by attracting the birds or being mistaken as stars when there is low cloud cover. Another theory is that the birds need particular wavelengths of light to sense the magnetic field of the earth, and the towers’ bright light interferes with their navigation. An avian mortality calculation based on the compiled data from 38 tower sites applied to more than 70,000 towers revealed that an estimated 6.8 million birds are being killed by the towers every year. Dr. Travis Longcore, one of the researchers of the study and science director at the Spatial Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California, proposes several solutions. One is by replacing the towers’ steady lights with flashing ones. Another is the removal of guy wires and avoidance of their use if possible. Floodlights can also be turned off or removed from the towers’ bases. These suggestions are encouraged to be applied both on existing and future towers.
In a separate report hollow PVC pipes which are used as mine markers for boundaries trap millions of birds every year. Once the bird gets into the pipes, they cannot escape because of the smoothness of the material, and are doomed to die from slow dehydration and starvation. Robert Johns of the American Bird Conservancy says that 10 or 20 million birds die unnecessarily every year because of the hollow pipes. The organization is seeking federal action as well as collaboration among other groups and individuals to help in removing the pipes.
The birds which are most likely to get trapped in the hollow PVC pipes are cavity nesters or migratory birds seeking a place to rest. It’s quite easy for them to get in, but almost impossible to get out.
Caps or coverings can be used to keep the birds from getting inside the pipes. The use of GPS was also recommended as an alternative to the pipes to mark boundaries. Hikers, youth organizations, bird watchers, and conservationists are encouraged to join in the removal of millions of pipes that proved to be so hazardous to the birds.
Simple steps in making communication towers and mine markers safer for birds don’t require much, but their benefit will be priceless.
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