Blaming towers is for the birds

Editorial Director Brad Dick says if there is a problem with bird deaths in the U.S., it isn’t a tower issue.
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I was jogging late one evening in a large park near my home. The nature trails are normally tranquil and solitary. This time, however, I found myself having to share the path with a large flock of Canada geese.

The Canada goose is classified as a “protected migratory species,” and you can't kill or injure them. The problem is these pests no longer migrate. Instead, millions of them have set up homes near golf courses, lakes and ponds. In addition to killing lawns by eating the grass, they make their foul presence known by leaving large amounts of waste on walkways, grass, lakes and even boats. A single Canada goose can deposit more than two pounds of fecal matter on your lawn, deck or pathways every day. While eating, a goose will relieve itself every six to eight minutes.

As the most common waterfowl species in North America, the Canada goose is a prime suspect for causing increased levels in high fecal coli from concentrations at beaches. The result can be disease-causing bacteria that result in typhoid, dysentery, hepatitis A and cholera.

Deciding the park pathway was mine and that these migratory interlopers had better move out of my way, I reached for my sound horn. But, before I could grab it, I was challenged by two of the larger geese. Startled, I then stumbled over one of the geese, falling onto the pavement and, you guessed it, right into several piles of goose poop.

At this point, the flock figured it had made its point because as I struggled to regain my dignity and clean myself off, it withdrew to a nearby pond. Geese-1, Brad-0.

The humiliating experience reminded me of a statement I had read about the FCC's open comment period on communications towers. The report quoted research claiming large-scale killing of birds by communications towers.

“Current estimates of the numbers of birds killed annually by communication towers range between 4 and 10 million,” it said.

I addressed the broader issue of migratory birds versus towers in 2000. The FCC eventually issued new regulations, walking a tight rope between permitting avian murder and destroying America's communications infrastructure.

Now, it seems there is additional data in a report, created for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which contradicts the previous claims of large-scale, bird-tower kill. From the report, “… the numbers of birds under the towers he [Arthur Clark] searches has dropped precipitously,” the new reports states. “There is speculation among several other researchers that tower kills are in general decline a few years after a new tower is erected.”

One might ask: Could it be the winged bombers actually learn where towers are located and fly around them?

Avian lovers should be reminded that a bird's biggest worry is not dying from a head bump to a broadcast tower. No, the Piping Plover, Tufted Titmouse, Canada goose or any other bird for that matter is far more likely to be killed by the common house cat than a tower!

According to research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, rural, free-ranging, domestic cats in Wisconsin alone may kill between 8 and 217 million birds each year. That means Wisconsin cats kill more than 21 times more birds than all of the communications towers in the U.S. combined.

If bird lovers would focus as much effort on preventing cat-caused bird deaths as they do trying to force more government restrictions on tower construction, tens of millions of their feathery friends might be saved. The problem with that approach is it pits the feather huggers against the fur huggers. And, it's so much easier to blame your contrived calamity on big, evil corporations.

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