As if broadcasters and other tower owners don’t have enough to worry about, the bird huggers are back in the news. I spied the Internet article “Will the FCC ever deal with bird-killing mobile phone towers?” on the ARS Web site. Being the ever vigilant editor, I clicked on the title and was greeted with the typical "the sky is falling and our little-bitty, teeny-weeny feathered friends are needlessly being killed by those big bad broadcast and cell towers" story.
The article was weak in information and long in diatribe and vitriol. The focus claim was that millions of birds are needlessly dying because of those horrible broadcast and cell phone towers. Unfortunately for humans, there is a 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which requires protection for these flea-infested, poop-dropping interlopers. That law is now being used as a club against tower owners.
Let’s look at some of the so-called facts presented by the article’s writer. He claims that, “It's unclear how many birds actually perish [due to towers, but] ... the Fish and Wildlife Service says that as many as four or five million birds may die in this fashion…” Let’s examine this statement. We don’t know for sure how many birds may die from tower collisions, but someone at a government agency thinks that 4 or 5 million “may” die.
Of course I was absolutely shocked to learn of these dreadful “facts,” so, I did a bit of research. It turns out that towers aren't the biggest murderers of birds, as the above experts claim; it's cats.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison states that between 7.8 million and 200 million birds are killed every year by the common house cat. Now, my math says this means cats kill 50 times more birds than all towers combined! Yet, I don’t see these bird lovers demanding that muzzles be installed on cats. Where’s the fairness?
Before you totally tear up, consider the millions of Canadian geese who have ceased to be migratory at all and instead live in our cities, defecating tons of poop daily on public walkways, boat docks and children’s play areas. While these birds never “migrate,” they are still classified as migratory, and you can’t get rid of them — even if they are nesting in your backyard pool. I read of one woman who was fined for killing a Canadian goose with her car as it crossed the road in traffic. I guess the motto should be: “Save the bird, even if it causes an accident.”
But our friends at the local “Hug-a-bird-a-day” group claim they know how to minimize the harm towers may cause migrating birds. First, you’ll need to reduce your tower’s height. While these experts don’t give a maximum total height, I’d guess they want towers limited to something in the range of about 3ft HAAT. Then stop using guy wires. Never mind this would require building a self-supporting tower that may cost 100 times more than a guyed tower.
Finally, you’ll have to use strobe lights instead of red obstruction lighting. While the humans located near towers may complain about the blinking white strobes, they supposedly help birds avoid the towers. I always thought birds slept at night, so how strobes benefit this whole specious augment stumps me.
I’ve addressed the issue of towers killing birds in a previous Broadcast Engineering editorial. If you’d like to see how I really feel about eco-nuts generating “facts” from thin air and then trying to foist their rules on businesses, you can read my editorial here.