Gulf oil? What really kills birds

Posted August 18th, 2010 by kcorliss. Comment (0).

Twice today I’ve run across pieces which touch on the issue of anthropomorphic bird deaths. You know, the kind caused by action or inaction of us humans.

First let’s educate. As David Sibley points out on his blog, loss of habitat is number one. However, this needs to be taken with a heavy dose of reality. Most of the land taken out of a pristine natural condition will never see a return to that state. It’s easy to pine for the day before humans stepped onto the shores of North America so we could experience true wilderness and see, presumably, huge numbers of birds. Of course that’s ludicrous. We are here, we are part of the natural systems, and we are not going away. We can mitigate our presence in various ways, to be sure, and that’s where our focus should lie.

After habitat loss, the number one killer of wild birds is…drum roll…windows (chart below). Notice what’s second? Feral cats. Take a peek at the line for oil spills. Absolutely miniscule.

From yesterday’s Washington Times editorial:

According to the latest figures, cleanup crews have collected 6,286 birds impacted by the spill. A total of 4,359 were found dead, and 1,927 were alive but covered in oil.

Likely there were more unfound and uncounted deaths but in reality the number is quite small. More from the editorial:

The death toll of the “worst environmental disaster in history” pales in comparison to the carnage wrought in the name of environmentalism. For example, the Altamont Pass, Calif., wind farm’s cruel blades pulverize 4,700 birds each year, according to the National Audubon Society. Victims of this green power plant include golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, American kestrels and burrowing owls.

Something to think about when it comes to indignant finger-pointing and chest-thumping on the part of mainstream media.

No, instead of going crazy on BP, things like this (from the NYDailyNews) should be looked at.

Big Apple skyscrapers will turn off lights this fall to help birds’ migration through the city

Some of the Big Apple’s brightest buildings are joining a campaign to dim the lights while millions of migrating birds pass through town this fall.

“Millions of birds pass through New York City on their way to their wintering grounds,” said NYC Audubon Director Glenn Philips. “They fly primarily at night over the city, and they get confused by the lights.”

For several years, the group has pressed building owners and managers to switch off the lights from midnight until dawn between Sept. 1 and Nov. 1. They’ve gotten cooperation from several city landmarks, including the Empire State and Chrysler buildings. They are being joined this year by the Time Warner Center and the former Citigroup Center.

Might the simple act of turning off a few light switches actually preserve the life of more wild birds than banning oil drilling in the Gulf? The data sure seem to support such a position. Well, that and keeping your darned cats inside.

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