By Mickey Z., Planet Green
All species – flora or fauna – live in a delicate balance within our eco-system. This balance is often upset by the activities of one particular breed of earthling: humans. Birds – large and small – often pay the price for human progress. Sometimes, the cause and effect is obvious, e.g. hunting the passenger pigeon to extinction. Once the most abundant bird on Earth, there were many billions of passenger pigeons in America when the “settlers” arrived. Now there are none.
Other man made threats to birds aren’t so apparent. For example, the seemingly simple choices of erecting a building or choosing to have a feline companion can impact heavily on the planet’s bird population.
Fortunately, such choices can be amended, adapted, or reversed through simple steps. Such changes are very possible, absolutely necessary, and would surely be appreciated by the birds.
9 Human Activities that Threaten Our Feathered Friends
Not the software kind of windows but rather those of the plate glass variety in tall buildings all across Mother Earth. As many as 80 million birds are killed each year by collisions with such reflective windows. At home, it’s suggested you keep your curtains closed and perhaps even hang a protective net. For the more dangerous larger buildings, one approach is to minimize or extinguish night lighting during migration periods.
Some 60 to 80 million birds are killed each year by motor vehicles. This averages out to roughly 15 bird deaths per mile driven per year. Obviously, the automobile culture is a major issue that would require a massive overhaul to protect not only birds but the entire eco-system. For starters, some basic steps are available to all of us, including: carpooling, public transportation, and best of all, bicycles.
3. Domestic Cats:
Feline companions allowed to roam free kill about 4 million birds every single day in North America alone. Worldwide, the yearly number of birds killed by domestic cats is in the billions. Solution: Keep your kitties inside.
4. Communication Towers:
There are 77,000 radio-transmission towers higher than 199 feet in the U.S. and nearly 200 million birds collide fatally with these towers per year. Add in 175,000 cell phone towers and the number of dead birds approaches a half-billion annually. Since so many birds migrate at night, lighted towers can throw off their their nocturnal navigation systems. They become reluctant to leave the lighted area and, as a result, collide with wires, the tower itself, or with each other. According to the Bedford Audobon Society, up to 90 percent of such mortalities can be avoided through doable steps like “avoiding the use of guy wires, carefully considering the location of towers with regard to migratory flyways and other bird concentration areas, and keeping as many towers as possible unlit.”
5. Habitat Fragmentation:
This threat “exacerbates the problem of habitat loss for grassland and wetland birds,” explain the folks at the US Geological Survey. “Remaining patches of grasslands and wetlands may be too small, too isolated, and too influenced by edge effects to maintain viable populations of some breeding birds.” While it would require an unforeseen sea change to imagine corporate power slowing down its relentless quest for resources, sometimes seemingly insurmountable problems can be effectively challenged by dedicated activists. On a smaller scale, increased preserves and sanctuaries can help and individually, you can learn more about the natural habitats in your area, preserve existing wetland and salt marsh vegetation on your property, and plant native vegetation around your home and property.
6. Environmental Toxins:
Over at StateoftheBirds.org, they tell us: “Pesticides, toxic chemicals, and heavy metals such as lead and mercury cause significant bird mortality and reduce breeding success.” The short term method to address this is to reduce our own use of pesticides. Bigger picture? We have to recognize the major role transnational corporations play in the despoiling of landbase. From there, it’s up to us to force them to change.
7. Pigeon poaching:
The New York Times says this trend has become “a big New York problem, as pigeons are netted and taken over the state border to be used for sport and food.” According to People for Pigeons, “men armed with large nets drive around the city – particularly in the early-morning hours, when birds are hungry – and place seed on the ground to attract pigeons. When the birds come to eat, the men throw nets over them, place them in trucks, and drive off. The birds are sold for $5 and $10 each, mostly to legal, out-of-state pigeon shoots. Anyone who witnesses a poaching should contact their local police. In NYC, you can also call 311.
Roughly 120 million birds are taken by hunters each year. This is the easiest change of all: stop shooting birds.
9. Meat-based Diet:
This is the biggest bird killer on the planet. Just for example: every day, 23 million chickens are killed in the U.S. for food. That’s 269 dead chickens per second. This is also the second easiest change of all: stop eating birds.