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Americas
22 May 2015

US Federal Government Agency to look at tackling bird deaths at oil pits, gas flares, and power lines

Wood Duck is one of the hundreds of species that would benefit from the proposed changes (Credit: Dee Langevin/Audubon Photography Awards)
By Audubon

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced its intent to address millions of grisly and unnecessary bird deaths by strengthening implementation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act , one of the nation’s oldest and most important wildlife conservation laws. The process will address threats like uncovered oil waste pits that trap and kill birds, gas flares that lure and incinerate birds, and unprotected communication towers and power lines that kill and electrocute birds by the tens of millions each year.

“Every day, countless death traps across America needlessly kill birds in horrible ways, from electrocution to drowning in oil – we’re talking about tens of millions of birds every year,” said National Audubon Society President and CEO David Yarnold. “It’s time to end this terrible and unnecessary slaughter. There is hope: in many cases, the tools and technology to save birds have already been developed. It’s time to make sure everyone plays by the same rules. Protecting wildlife is a deeply held American value, and we know that when we do the right things for birds, we’re doing the right things for people too.”

While obtaining reliable estimates of bird mortality from various hazards is challenging due to lack of standardized procedures and poor or absent reporting by some industries, it is clear that millions of birds could be saved by addressing the following sources of mortality, all of which are named in the USFWS document released today:

  • Power lines: Up to 175 million birds per year (Source)
  • Communication towers: Up to 50 million birds per year (Source)
  • Oil waste pits: 500,000 to 1 million birds per year (Source)
  • Gas flares: No reliable mortality estimates, but an infamous 2013 incident in Canada incinerated an estimated 7,500 birds (Source)

“This is just common sense. We can save the lives of millions of birds every year by adopting practical, inexpensive solutions that put an end to these death traps,” said Audubon Vice President for Government Relations Mike Daulton. “These horrific deaths have gone on far too long.”