THE DYING CHIRRUPS
When I was a kid, I remember waking up to the sound of birds chirruping. It was very common to see a brown sparrow sitting on the window sill. Then I grew up and got busy with life, forgot to listen to the birds singing, forgot to look at the bird sitting on my window. A few months ago when some nostalgic moments from childhood came back to me, I recalled the sparrow. I couldn’t remember the last time I saw it around my house.
I realized the chirruping sounds were replaced by a dull hum of a machine running nearby and my window sill was empty. Wherever I went I tried to find that brown sparrow which had inexplicably become rare. I couldn’t find it anywhere.
This is not the story of just one bird. All around the world, the birds are facing various problems. Apart from the loss of their natural habitat, the birds trying to survive the urbanization face a lot of other problems too. Both light and air pollution has led to serious decline in number of some species.
LIGHT POLLUTION IS KILLING BIRDS
In major cities where light pollution hides all the stars, birds keep waiting for the night that never comes disrupting their sleep patterns. Nocturnal birds are practically absent in places like these. This not only affects these birds but also other species that prey on these birds. There has been a growing concern over the increasing number of migrant birds dying as a result of hitting illuminated buildings at night. According to Mesure, over two consecutive nights in 1954, 50,000 birds died at Warner Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, when they followed lights straight into the ground. And in 1981, over 10,000 birds slammed into floodlit smokestacks at the Hydrox Generating Plant near Kingston, Ontario.
THE MOBILE TOWERS & RADIO SIGNALS
Apart from the lights interference from electronics and AM radio signals can disrupt the internal magnetic compasses of migratory birds. The bird’s navigation system in connected to Earth’s magnetic field and artificial electromagnetic noise prevents them to orient themselves in correct direction which creates problems in their migratory patterns.
BIRD SONGS ANYMORE?
Birds rely heavily on singing to communicate, to attract mates, defend territory from rivals, and even warn for predators. But nowadays this birdsong is getting drowned by the noise created by humans even in the early hours of the day. When bombarded by noise pollution, some male birds begin to sing higher tunes, which makes them less attractive to females. To cope with the urban cacophony, German nightingales have started singing at a piercing 95 decibels. The intensity is like standing a few feet away from a running chainsaw, and the sound is enough to damage human ears if sustained. But not all species can make these changes to get heard and hence have no other option but to leave for quieter places.
The parrot has no chance of making itself heard when all the vehicles are honking quite unnecessarily at no one in particular.
THE CONCRETE FURNACE
With the continuous rising temperature, hundreds of birds die every day due to heat and humidity. With the city made of stone and concrete it is very difficult for them to find cool shade and long flights leads to dehydration. Sometimes they are forced to drink sewage and dirty water to survive from the blistering heat.
With the changes in the weather becoming more and more unpredictable the normal sources of water for these birds may or may not be viable anymore and it can affect their timing and period of breeding.
IS THERE A HOPE?
A small effort from us can save lives of a lot of birds. To counteract the heat, we can put a bowl of water fill it every day. It’s important to do that all year, even in winters because generally in winters the river water is too cold for them to drink or in some places it might even freeze over. Mixing a little glucose in water sometimes can also reduce dehydration cases in birds. For the birds living in the cities, this is their option. Putting a camera nearby and recording all the birds that visit the house – bird watching in our own backyard.
Since 1990, Chicago’s Hancock Centre has doused its ornamental night-time lighting during spring and autumn to save the nearly 1,500 birds that – nightly – met with an abrupt death when they crashed into the tower during migration season, mistaking its illumination for stars or the moon.
In 2006, a further 2,000 dead birds from 89 different species were put on display at the Royal Ontario Museum to encourage people to turn off unnecessary lights. Turning off the porch lights before going to sleep at night will make sure that birds around our house can get a sound sleep too.
The report that bird’s navigational system is affected by electromagnetic interference was co-authored by biologist Henrik Mouritsen who created an experiment in which he and his colleagues covered the huts with aluminium plates and electrically grounded them to cut out electromagnetic noise in frequencies ranging from 50 kilohertz to 5 megahertz — which includes the range used for AM radio transmissions. The shielding reduced the intensity of the noise by about two orders of magnitude. Under those conditions, the birds were able to orient themselves.
To reduce the noise pollution especially during certain celebrations, the California Coastal Commission banned the city of Gualala’s fireworks display after a 2006 show caused nesting seabirds to flee their nests and abandon their chicks. Similar incident happened in Arkansas where the fireworks on New Year’s Eve lead to death of around 4000 blackbirds.
The fireworks on new years were banned after this incident to avoid further death. The noise and air pollution are both expected to be responsible for these death. Let’s join our hands together to ban fireworks altogether and celebrate events in a calm, peaceful manner.
More than a BILLION birds are killed annually in the USA alone as a result of human activities. Birds are often considered to be outstanding indicators of the health of the overall environment. Declining number of bird’s species is a harbinger of our own doom if everybody doesn’t realize it and makes efforts to change it soon.
Deepti Chauhan graduated in Computer Science from Delhi College of Engineering after which she worked with Samsung as a software developer for 2 years. Deepti joined Earth5R to build changes that she wanted to see around herself, for the society and for the planet. She feels that to change the world we should start changing ourselves.