Things that kill birds

By | January 21, 2011


As a nice follow-up to the hysteria that followed America’s collective realization that, sometimes, birds die in groups, the New York Times offers up a story detailing what actually does the killing. Some facts:

• Five billion birds die in the U.S. every year, out of an average yearly population of 10 billion, minimum. During fall migration, for instance, the population can temporarily rise to 20 billion.

• “Even without humans, tens of millions of birds would be lost each year to natural predators and natural accidents.” But we complicate matters. Often in surprising ways.

• For instance, rural domesticated cats in Wisconsin kill some 39 million birds every year, all on their own. That’s not even counting their city cousins, or cats in neighboring states.

• Window strikes kill more birds than pesticides, at least when measured directly. It’s hard to track indirect pesticide deaths, like chicks that die when their parent is killed by pesticide exposure. But, even if you assume an equal number of birds are killed indirectly as directly—i.e., double the number of pesticide deaths—it still doesn’t even get close to the worst years on record for window-strike deaths.
Not to say that pesticide deaths aren’t a problem—especially since the indirect deaths could be a lot bigger—but it’s interesting to see this cause of death in context with others. It suggests that, if you care about wildlife, you probably want to spend more time scrutinizing our propensity to build big, all-glass buildings. There’s an environmental issue here that’s going overlooked.*

Submitterated by TerribleNews.

*And in more ways than one. I won’t start ranting about energy use here, but, suffice to say, if someone shows you an all-glass building and tells you it’s sustainable or Green, feel free to roll your eyes. And maybe ask, “In comparison to what?”

Image: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos via GNU license

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