6.8 million birds die each year at communication towers

Apr 26, 2012

More than 6 million birds die every year as they migrate from the United States and Canada to Central and South America, according to a new study published Apr. 25 in the open access journal PLoS ONE. The birds are killed by the 84,000 communication towers that dot North America and can rise nearly 2,000 feet into the sky.

"This is a tragedy that does not have to be," said lead author Travis Longcore of the University of Southern California. The taller the tower the greater the threat, the researchers found; the tallest 1.9 percent of towers account for 71 percent of the mortalities.

The birds are generally killed not by running into the tower itself, but by getting caught in the dozens of cables that prop up the thin freestanding structures. During , the birds are pushed down by cloud cover and fly at lower altitudes. The clouds also remove navigation cues such as stars, leaving only the red lights of the towers.

"In the presence of the solid red lights, the birds are unable to get out of their spell," Longcore said. "They circle the tower and run into the big cables holding it up."

Towers with blinking red lights, on the other hand, cause fewer deaths. The authors estimate that replacing the steady-burning lights with on the roughly 4,500 towers greater than 150 meters tall could reduce by about 45 percent, or about 2.5 million birds. The study also recommends that businesses share towers to reduce their number and build more freestanding towers to reduce the need for guy wires.

"One of the things this country has been great about is saying we care about not losing species on our watch," Longcore said. "With these towers, we are killing in an unnatural way. This is senseless."

Explore further: Japan to hunt fewer whales in Pacific this season (Update)

More information: Longcore T, Rich C, Mineau P, MacDonald B, Bert DG, et al. (2012) An Estimate of Avian Mortality at Communication Towers in the United States and Canada. PLoS ONE 7(4): e34025. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0034025

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User comments : 32

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islatas
not rated yet Apr 26, 2012
Are these stats accurate? They work out to the worst offending 1596 towers killing 3025 birds on avg. just during migration. If that's anywhere near accurate that's insane. There must be a feather carpet developing in the vicinity of these towers.
kochevnik
4 / 5 (4) Apr 26, 2012
If cats were made into tacos as in Mexico, then this tragedy could be offset. I propose a cat tax. This way we can make towers bird-neutral, at least on paper.
Tangent2
1 / 5 (1) Apr 26, 2012
Are these stats accurate? They work out to the worst offending 1596 towers killing 3025 birds on avg. just during migration. If that's anywhere near accurate that's insane. There must be a feather carpet developing in the vicinity of these towers.


Well, like the article said:
"The taller the tower the greater the threat, the researchers found; the tallest 1.9 percent of towers account for 71 percent of the mortalities."
So the majority of the deaths are by the 1.9%.

I really hope they come up with another means of avoiding this, as from the article it seems like they are saying they will just adopt a blinking light policy and reduce the deaths by about 2.5 million birds (really 45% of 6.8 mil is 3.06 mil, not sure where the 2.5 came from). So what about the other 55% of the 6.8 million birds? Are they just going to write it off as an acceptable loss? I really hope not.
kochevnik
3.4 / 5 (5) Apr 26, 2012
Don't forget windows. Major bird killers. And cars. Ban those too.
kaasinees
1.7 / 5 (6) Apr 26, 2012
The casualty may even be much higher... I dont really know their equations though.

Who knows how much sensory input is distorted due to the output of the towers?

http://www.juanco...sas.html

In contrast the North pole is moving more rapid every year, most likely navigational skills from animals are being distorted. Radio towers might have the same effect.
Terriva
5 / 5 (1) Apr 26, 2012
NotParker
1.8 / 5 (5) Apr 26, 2012
Wind turbines are massive bat killers. Which is bad for our health since bats eat million of bugs each year. Each.
kochevnik
3 / 5 (2) Apr 26, 2012
Wind turbines are massive bat killers. Which is bad for our health since bats eat million of bugs each year. Each.
Bats also harbor many contagious human diseases like mumps, and as many unknown pathogens awaiting an opportunity to be the next plague.

Besides, birds and bats will adapt to windmills and likely thrive in the preserves.
kaasinees
2.1 / 5 (7) Apr 26, 2012
Bats are currently plagued with white nose syndrome, i dont know the exact name of the dissease but i do know its a fungus, they are basically zombie bats.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (4) Apr 26, 2012
If cats were made into tacos as in Mexico, then this tragedy could be offset. I propose a cat tax. This way we can make towers bird-neutral, at least on paper.
Thats a myth! They make them from dead birds.
NotParker
1 / 5 (2) Apr 26, 2012
"the Spanish Society of Ornithology (SEO/Birdlife) made public its estimate that, yearly, Spains 18,000 wind turbines may be killing 6 to 18 million birds and bats "

http://www.canada...le/43904

"Bats are something of a one-species stimulus program for farmers, every year gobbling up millions of bugs that could ruin a harvest. "

http://www.post-g...-306498/
NotParker
1 / 5 (3) Apr 26, 2012
"the Spanish Society of Ornithology (SEO/Birdlife) made public its estimate that, yearly, Spains 18,000 wind turbines may be killing 6 to 18 million birds and bats "

http://www.canada...le/43904


"Writing in the journal Science, researchers estimated that the bats are worth billions to the agriculture industry.

'Not acting is not an option because the life histories of these flying nocturnal mammals - characterised by long generation times and low reproductive rates - mean that population recovery is unlikely for decades or even centuries, if at all,' Dr Gary McCracken from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville told the Daily Telegraph.

He added: 'Without bats, crop yields are affected. Pesticide applications go up. "

http://www.dailym...ear.html
kaasinees
1.7 / 5 (6) Apr 26, 2012
http://wwwnc.cdc....icle.htm

This dissease actually affects the bats ability to reproduce and populate.

Bat deaths are not a big deal as long as there is plenty of food and they are able to reproduce, it just means that they will have to adept to the windmills.
However if they are unable to recover from this dissease this will actually hurt the bat population unlike a few windmill deaths.
NotParker
1 / 5 (3) Apr 26, 2012

Bat deaths are not a big deal as long as there is plenty of food and they are able to reproduce,


"Not acting is not an option because the life histories of these flying nocturnal mammals - characterized by long generation times and low reproductive rates - mean that population recovery is unlikely for decades or even centuries,"
kochevnik
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 27, 2012
I have yet to see bats of any significance on farmland. To my limited knowledge they prefer areas where insects swarm like wet grasses. Agricultural pests usually don't congregate but spread out over the field, and prefer hiding to flying.
gwrede
3 / 5 (2) Apr 27, 2012
6.8 million birds is peanuts. Americans kill more than 1000 million chicken every year. :-P
alfie_null
5 / 5 (1) Apr 27, 2012
Replacing solid lights with flashing lights is a nice, likely inexpensive, solution. Probably be more noticeable to aircraft pilots also.
I do not, however, like having raw numbers thrown at me in an attempt to convince me of something. Overall, how many wild birds die per year (vs. killed by hitting guy wires)? I suspect the ratio is large.
Origin
4 / 5 (4) Apr 27, 2012
6.8 million birds is peanuts. Americans kill more than 1000 million chicken every year. :-P
But chicken don't eat the insect pests, which are harmless for agriculture. For example, our grandfathers didn't use any pesticides at all. But the crops were full of quails, which consumed the insect pests massively. What's better, at the autumn many of these quails served as a food for hunters - our grandfathers actually consumed their insect pests trough the quails and no expenses for pesticides were required. http://www.dovehu..._004.jpg
In this way, the overall economical balance of the pests was positive: the pests in agriculture actually contributed to the agricultural economy trough the meat of quails. Are you fascinated with it? This is how the agriculture should be done again - without chemistry, additional expenses and destruction of biodiversity.
kaasinees
1.7 / 5 (6) Apr 27, 2012
@Origin you are correct.
But i dont think bats are really edible.
And a few windmill deaths are not that bad. Unlike a fungal dissease that kills off a lot of the population of the bats and they dont repopulate. Windmill deaths just means more bat reproduction because there is still plenty of insects to eat.
Same for birds although celltowers are more widespread etc. and can put a real dent to bird population like a dissease.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Apr 27, 2012
But i dont think bats are really edible.
And a few windmill deaths are not that bad. Unlike a fungal dissease that kills off a lot of the population of the bats and they dont repopulate. Windmill deaths just means more bat reproduction because there is still plenty of insects to eat.
In Mexico they also use dead bats in tacos. Also some insects sometimes.
NotParker
1 / 5 (3) Apr 27, 2012

And a few windmill deaths are not that bad.


""the Spanish Society of Ornithology (SEO/Birdlife) made public its estimate that, yearly, Spains 18,000 wind turbines may be killing 6 to 18 million birds and bats "

18 million per country .... and Spain isn't very big.
Deathclock
1 / 5 (1) Apr 29, 2012
The birds will adapt... environments change, adapt or go extinct, that's the reality of life on this planet for the last couple Billion years.
ccr5Delta32
3 / 5 (2) Apr 29, 2012

""the Spanish Society of Ornithology (SEO/Birdlife) made public its estimate that, yearly, Spains 18,000 wind turbines may be killing 6 to 18 million birds and bats "

18 million per country .... and Spain isn't very big.


Parker you flabbergast me ,I never took you for an environmentalist
xen_uno
not rated yet Apr 29, 2012
You say that now Death until something you like becomes rare and expensive because of the death of these non-adaptee's, which could have been prevented by working with nature rather than trying to destroy it. So not only do these species suffer through continuous loss of habitat but now they have to make it through a man made gauntlet.

The circle of life ... heard of it?
kaasinees
1 / 5 (3) Apr 29, 2012
Well in mexico they dont really have a choice in what to eat.
The problem with celltowers is that they distort the birds/bats senses that are used for navigation, together with the magnetic polar shift they really hurt animal populations.
Origin
1 / 5 (3) Apr 30, 2012
Large wind farms might have a warming effect on the local climate, research in the United States showed on Sunday, casting a shadow over the long-term sustainability of wind power.
kochevnik
3 / 5 (2) Apr 30, 2012
@Origin ...casting a shadow over the long-term sustainability of wind power.
No Beavis that simply means air a few hundred feet high is mixed with that on the ground. So what? Why don't you ban skyscrapers, trees, mountains and cities too?
Origin
1 / 5 (2) Apr 30, 2012
Why don't you ban skyscrapers, trees, mountains and cities too?
Because these objects don't hinder the natural atmospheric circulation so much. Whereas the wind plants are optimized for their role, i.e. for stopping of the wind and using it's kinetic energy. For example, I wouldn't be surprised, if the wind plants would be connected with droughts - as they prohibit the natural atmospheric circulation of water in the nature.

I'm just trying to say, there is no absolutely pure "green" energy. Even the exploitation of "renewable sources" brings the adverse effects to the life environment and many adverse effects may manifest itself just after years, but in irreversible way.
kaasinees
1 / 5 (2) Apr 30, 2012
Your wrong origin, green energy can turn deserts into jungles, but i am not going into details as to how here.
okyesno
1 / 5 (4) Apr 30, 2012
Millions of generations and not a single mutation against power lines despite all this environmental pressure. Might Dawrin be wrong after all?
Origin
1 / 5 (4) Apr 30, 2012
Your wrong origin, green energy can turn deserts into jungles, but I am not going into details as to how here.
The green energy is unreliable and very diluted, it requires to accumulate the energy in expensive batteries and to cover the surface of Earth with many metallic constructions, the recycling of which will become problematic. Not to say, wind and solar plants are consuming the main portion or rare-earth metals and indium, the resources of whose are limited.

Wind farms lift the temperature in their region IMO the recent sultriness and droughts in Texas may be caused just with widespread application of wind farms, which prohibit the natural circulation of atmospheric water. Such a "green energy" could become very expensive, after then.
Deathclock
3 / 5 (2) May 01, 2012
Millions of generations and not a single mutation against power lines despite all this environmental pressure. Might Dawrin be wrong after all?


You don't know how evolution works... more species go extinct due to environmental changes than adapt to them.

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