Millions of Birds Die Yearly at Communication Towers

Approximately 6.8 million birds every year in the U.S. and Canada die because of the 84,000 communication towers in those countries. Birds are mesmerized by the lights on the towers and fly into cables supporting the structures, fly into each other, or are simply exhausted due to circling them for too long.

About 250,000 birds died in the Exxon Valdez oil disaster, but 27 times more communication tower bird deaths take place every year, said the researchers.

One factor which forces birds to fly at lower altitudes, and into the range of communication towers, is the lower cloud cover of inclement weather. The birds are then attracted to the red safety lights of the towers. Researchers say once the birds hone in on these lights, they are unable to stop circling the structures, leading to exhaustion or running into other birds or wires.

Scientists say solid red lights are the main cause of bird mesmerization and disorientation. If flashing lights are used instead of solid ones, the bird fatality rate can be cut nearly in half. Replacing solid lights
with flashing ones also does not reduce safety for aircraft, they said. Constructing free-standing towers without using guy wires can reduce bird deaths, as well.

Some of the millions of birds killed every year by communications towers are of conservation status, meaning they are threatened or endangered species. Most of the species killed by towers are migratory breeding in Canada and the U.S. but wintering south of the U.S. border. Known as neotropical migrants they have been documented to be in decline for some time, due to habitat loss and degradation. There are well over 300 species if neotropical migrants – some of them are warblers, vireos, flycatchers, and thrushes.

Another concern is the additional construction of new towers due to the popularity of the digital age. The researchers said theirs is the first estimate of bird deaths in the two countries due to communications towers. Over a dozen scientists collaborated on the survey.

You can read the whole study here if you like.

Image Credit: public domain by its author, Berichard

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Edytheortega E.
Past Member 3 years ago

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Ashlyine B.
Ashlyine B.4 years ago

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Aud Nordby
Aud nordby4 years ago


Cindy B.
Cindy B5 years ago

GUESS WHAT, LLOYD -- "freaking house cats" are worth every single bird they kill. And I'm a bird-lover!! But I'm a cat-lover a thousand times more! And I will NOT commit my kitties to a life in a dark, stuffy house sadly gazing out the windows, pining for the life they were programmed to have, pining for the beautiful outdoors and all it offers, just to save some birds. SHEESH. What an idiot. TRIAGE, MAN, TRIAGE.

Charlene Rush
Charlene Rush5 years ago

Surely, we don't want to see birds being killed, due to anything that humans might construct.
However, we must consider the alternatives to clean energy.
We must never stop, attemping to fix this problem, to insure the survival of all species.

Pushpraj Singh
Pushpraj Singh5 years ago

Good point Lloyd, if what you say is true.
But still, replacing solid lights with flashing ones seems a lot easier.

Edgar Zuim
Edgar Zuim5 years ago

Something should be done to avoid the elimination of so many birds.

mari s.
Mari S5 years ago

All red lights should be changed to flashing reds -- stop using "guy" wires -- doing everything you can to stop these terrible deaths is a step in the right direction. These birds have been flying these paths probably for thousands of years and suddenly we put up these towers and wires -- PLEASE, make these changes NOW. It's heartbreaking and such a shame that their lives are cut short AND in such a cruel way.

Lloyd H5 years ago

Well here is another proof that a little knowledge is not only dangerous but makes you look really really stupid.
Fact: Freaking House Cats, owned, stray and feral kill 14.7 times more birds than Comm. Towers at 100 Million per year.
Fact: Cars and trucks kill between 7 and 15 times more birds every year than the Comm. Towers, 50-100 Million yearly.
Fact: Agricultural activities kill 6 times, 67 Million, more birds that Comm. Towers.
Fact: The National Audubon Society lists land/urban development as the largest cause of bird deaths.
Communication Towers are at worst the FIFTH, #5, irresponsible cat owners are at #2, drivers #3 and so forth. And lets be honest feral and stray cats reproduce a hell of a lot faster than Comm. Towers.

David V.
David V5 years ago

So how hard is it to change the lights from solid to blinking........that is such an easy fix that it should have been done already.