Rob Pavey blogs green issues and the outdoors life

It's raining blackbirds in Arkansas and our skies are cloudy, too.

Rob Pavey/Staff
Anyone who has spent a winter weekend in a Georgia deer stand has marveled at the undulating flocks of redwing blackbirds that can sometimes take a half-hour to pass overhead. This flock paused to roost in a Screven County clearcut.

Dead birds are big news this week, from redwings raining down in Arkansas to whooping cranes in south Georgia to bald eagles at Thurmond Lake.

 

But is it a sign of the Apocalypse? Probably not.

 

If conspiracy theorists weren't fully abuzz after 5,000 blackbirds tumbled from the New Year's Eve skies over Beebe, Ark., they were in full frenzy when 500 more dropped dead a few days later near Baton Rouge, La.

 

The sad truth is that birds die all the time and there are many possible causes (other than sonic booms, nuclear fallout, fireworks or deadly plagues).

 

Redwing blackbirds, in particular, are among nature's most prolific avian. Tens of millions of them winter and migrate across the Southeast each year.

 

Anyone who has ever spent an early winter weekend in a Georgia deer stand has marveled at the undulating flocks that sometimes take a half-hour or more to pass overhead.

 

Whatever killed the Arkansas birds may have affected only a small portion of a much larger flock. Ornithologists are stumped as to the cause, but will very likely find an answer soon.

 

On a broader scale, the well-publicized phenomenon is a reminder that birds face many tangible threats - and most of them are somehow linked to man's behavior or lifestyle.

 

A University of Nebraska report last year calculated that feral cats kill 480 million wild birds each year and are a contributing factor in the decline of many species.

 

Large migrating flocks of birds also face another growing menace: the proliferation of communications towers that accompany cellular phone technology. Under certain weather conditions, birds can be lured to their lights and die by the thousands.

 

Ornithologists refer to the phenomenon as "towerkill." Way back in 2005, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service estimated the minimum number tower-killed birds at 5 million per year, with possibly as many as 50 million. Since then, thousands of new cell towers have sprouted up each year.

 

Also in the news this week was an Associated Press report that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is trying to determine why three whooping cranes suddenly died near Albany just before New Year's Eve.

 

The rare birds were banded and equipped with transmitters as part of their role in the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership effort to reintroduce them to the eastern U.S.

 

Closer to home, at least five bald eagles have been found dead along Thurmond Lake. Their cause of death is no mystery, however, and has been linked to an algae bloom spread from the invasive weed hydrilla to small waterbirds that are favorite foods of bald eagles.

 

    • Syndicate content
Comments (7) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Many Arrows
-1
Points
Many Arrows 01/07/11 - 11:13 am
0
0
Normally I would agree about

Normally I would agree about mass bird deaths being unremarkable, but In Arkansas there was a massive fish kill that coincided with the bird kill.

Last summer, winter in the Southern Hemisphere, brutal cold killed huge numbers of fish in Bolivia.

How much of all of this is out of the ordinary versus just being highlighted due to the internet age is uncertain.

This article is certainly stoking the sensationalist fire...

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1344913/Animal-death-mystery-Two...

iLove
626
Points
iLove 01/07/11 - 11:22 am
0
0
If you guys get a chance,
Unpublished

If you guys get a chance, check this map of all the animal deaths in recent days.. . .Build a relationship with God because as you can see "they" are not playing.

Anyone who buys the mess about it being fireworks (or a tornado or a “cold snap” or stress) is only a testament to how well they have dumbed people down. They are hoping that you will just take it as that and go BACK TO SLEEP! Be a thorn in their side and don’t stop yakkin’ about it!!!!! The best thing, I think, people can do is dig up as much info as you can and SPREAD it!!!! It’s an information war ….to the umpteenth degree.

World map of mysterious animal deaths | The Vigilant Citizen
URL: http://vigilantcitizen.com/?p=6211

MysteryWriter
0
Points
MysteryWriter 01/07/11 - 12:34 pm
0
0
Regarding the dead fish and

Regarding the dead fish and dead birds...I have the answer!

It all rests on one happy cat out there with one wish left.

:)

Happy Friday y'all!

paulwheeler
137
Points
paulwheeler 01/07/11 - 12:59 pm
0
0
Rob, Do you have any

Rob,
Do you have any information with regard to bird kills by power generation wind turbines? Apparently there is a bit of a dark side to this method of green energy production.

Rob Pavey
552
Points
Rob Pavey 01/07/11 - 01:32 pm
0
0
paul, wind turbines are

paul, wind turbines are definitely known to cause bird mortality, but the stories I have read on the issue are confined to the West, and in particular, the California coast. That being said, the US Fish & Wildlife Service has a fact sheet on bird mortality that mentions an annual estimate of just 33,000 birds - a small number compared to other causes. Here is the fact sheet: http://www.fws.gov/birds/mortality-fact-sheet.pdf

paulwheeler
137
Points
paulwheeler 01/07/11 - 03:07 pm
0
0
Thanks for the info but I

Thanks for the info but I plan to dig a litte furthur, that gov't report is dated January 2002 and quite a few more turbines have been built since then.

knighttime
1
Points
knighttime 01/14/11 - 08:25 am
0
0
Rob, I hunt not far from you

Rob, I hunt not far from you in screven and about three weeks ago I saw a flock of redwings blackbirds fly over that was the biggest I have ever seen. Me and my hunting buddy couldnt begin to even estimate how many there were. I have been hunting that area my whole life and have never seen anything like it. I have seen flocks but that was out of the ordinary. What is your take on why?

Rob Pavey
552
Points
Rob Pavey 01/20/11 - 09:59 am
0
0
knighttime, the photo here

knighttime, the photo here was taken from one of my deer stands - this is just a guess, but I suspect the severe winter to the north and a combination of weather patterns have created these larger (or at least more concentrated) migrations. I dont have any hard data to support that though. Hope you guys had a good season down there!

Back to Top
loading...
Top headlines

Stormwater fee to fund Columbia County repairs

Columbia County is set to invest an additional $600,000 in its aging stormwater system next year, with the hope that more money and manpower will result in half as many repair orders and fewer ...
Search Augusta jobs